Two years ago Akron won the MAC tournament led by two great inside players and almost pulled off a major upset vs UCLA in the NCAA tourney. Then Ali Ali transferred to Butler and missed most of the year with injuries. He then transferred back to Akron but was ineligible to play because of the two transfer rule. However, as a result of the lawsuit, he got immediate eligibility in late December. Since then Akron has dominated the league, led by a roster of 5 5th year players.
6-7 Enrique Freeman ( looks and plays more like 6-9) was attending Akron on an academic scholarship when friends talked him into going to an open tryout, and 5 years later he might be ending his career as Akron’s greatest player ever. He is averaging 18.5ppg and 12.9 rpg and is also an intimidating shot blocker. 6-8 SR Ali Ali is averaging 15.7ppg. 6-9 SR Sammy Hunter averages 9.9/3.1, Sr 6-0 transfer Kaleb Thornton leads the tam in assists. 6-3 SR Greg Tribble is a defensive specialist. Soph Nate Johnson averages 8 ppg and 3rpg.
Head Coach John Groce did so well at Ohio that he got the Illinois job, but eventually lost it. When longtime coach Keith Dambrot left Akron for more money at Duquesne, they grabbed Groce, who is the older brother of Travis Steele. So Groce has had a very strong run at Akron and is in his 7th year there. If this season lives up to it’s possibilities, you have to wonder if he won’t take another run at a power conference program, as most of his talent will be ending their eligibility this season.
Saturday Miami’s staff will be participating in the Coaches vs Cancer “Suits and Sneakers” program. According to today’s Steele interview, we should get Jacquel Morris back tomorrow and Evan Ipsaro played most of the game Tuesday and moved very tentatively in the first half but seemed to loosen up and played better in the second half, so we should be closer to full strength than we have been since 3 guys got hurt in our first MAC game. The last time we played Akron ( who was 22-11 last year) we almost beat them and the reason was we got Freeman in early foul trouble and that limited his minutes and aggressiveness. Hope we can do that again. Will our students be back for this game?