Ever heard of Lebron James? How about Dru Joyce and Romeo Travis? If you haven’t heard of the last two so far, then you’re bound to hear about them a lot this year. The two running mates of James in high school at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s are entering their senior seniors and are hoping to get their school on the map. Akron returns 9 of 13 letterwinners and is no doubt a very experienced team. This is the team that most publications are picking to win the MAC East this year and many people think this team can go the distance and make it to the Big Dance. First let’s break down the players class by class in order from seniors to freshmen.
First we’ll start with the seniors. First off is preseason All-MAC player Romeo Travis who will start the season down on the blocks for the Zips. He is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder and will be looked too contribute much the same numbers this year. The other senior on the team is Dru Joyce. Joyce and Travis have a special connection with each other as they have played on the same team’s with each other since high school. Last year Joyce was an honorable mention All-MAC and his 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio led the league. He also set the school’s all-time assist record with 165, which translated to 5 assists a game. Joyce will become a well known player throughout the MAC and will defiantly be on the radar for MAC player of the year to start the season.
Joyce will be paired in the backcourt with junior guard Nick Dials who comes in averaging 10.2 points and 2.7 assists from a year ago. Dials played his first full year last year for the Zips after having transferred from Ohio State. Another junior guard is Cedrick Middleton who will play the role of sixth man for the Zips. He comes in averaging 8.1 points per game. Another big player coming off the bench will be redshirt junior Jeremiah Wood. Before he tore his ACL last season he was averaging 10.7 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game. If he is able to stay healthy this year he could be a real threat for opposing defenses. Three juniors who have not seen much action or scoring thus far in their collegiate careers are guard Nick Goddard, Quade Milum, and Zach Sowers. Goddard is a streaky three point shooter who will score points in bunches if left open on the wing. Millum is best known for his athleticism off the bench.
A dark horse to look out for on this talented Zips team is redshirt sophomore Jimmy Conyers. He is an extremely athletic peremiter player and is also a great defensive player. While playing at the National Christian Academy in Baltimore, Maryland he averaged 24 points as a senior. He sat out the 2005-2006 season to focus on academics. Another talented sophomore likely to come off the bench or start this year is forward Nate Linhart. He was named to the All-MAC freshmen team last year and had 17 starts last year as well. The last sophomore on the team is forward John Rybak. Rybak will be a role player coming off the bench and probably won’t get much time this year with the talent that the Zips have.
Akron will also be looking towards it’s three freshmen to get some minutes this year as well. Leading them off is Steve McNess. He made the Associated Press All-State (Pa.) team and originally signed his National Letter of Intent with Duquesne. As a senior he averaged 28.4 points per game, 8 assists per game, and 7 rebounds per game. Needless to say he is the team’s top freshmen and a lot of people in the Akron community are excited about his future. The next freshmen is center Mike Bardo. He made All-Conference, All-city, and All-District honors as well as a special mention all-state. He is a very smart player who has the ability to knock down the mid-range shot. The next freshmen on the roster is Chris McKnight. McKnight was the Ohio District 11 player of the year and also earned first-team all-conference and all-state honors. He averaged 15.5 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game as a senior. The last freshmen on the team is forward Tim Carroll. He is a walk on player who the team hopes will help them in practice.
This heavily talented team has some huge expectations put upon them. Much the same as Ohio University had last year. The difference between the two teams may be the two seniors on this one. They are very key players who will play a role both in scoring and picking the team up through any tough paths they might face. They will contend with Ohio to try and win the MAC East this year. Their non conference schedule does not seem too tough at first glance. They have an early season match-up with Texas Tech if both teams are to win or lose in the College Basketball Expeience Classic in Lubbock, Texas. They also have tough games against fellow mid-majors Oral Roberts and Illinois-Chicago away from their friendly confines. The biggest home non-conference game is Nevada on December 22nd. Travis will have his hands full with NBA draft hopeful Nick Fazekas.