“With his tremendous athleticism, he will be our most explosive perimeter player from the day he steps on campus,” Dambrot said. “Offensively, his ability to get a good shot at any time definitely addresses a need for our team. On the defensive end, his potential is almost limitless.” - Keith Dambrot, August 2004
Prior to last season, “stories” started circulating around the campus of the University of Akron about one of the Akron Zips’ new recruits. It seemed like everyone who followed the team heard a “story” about how much potential the guy had, how athletic he was, and how much he would do for the team. Anytime we’d hear this, we’d smile.
We heard “stories” about him embarrassing other guys at the Rec, his skills and ability simply on a whole other level than anyone else there. And while we knew it was just pick-up basketball, we quietly allowed ourselves to get excited thinking about him doing the same in an Akron uniform. He was a diamond in the rough recruit who was still known to take over games. Akron coach Keith Dambrot, usually reserved when discussing unproven players, held very little back in praising his talent. Hearing all of this, you just knew we had a special player committed to the program.
Days before the 2005-2006 season, he was declared ineligible. I have to wait another year to see him play? Everyone was frustrated, but still excited to have him be a part of the program. As he watched game after game in street clothes, the “stories” continued…the hype grew more and more.
Finally on November 11th, 2006, he - Jimmy Conyers - made his Akron Zips debut:
5 minutes, 4 points, 1 foul.
Not exactly front-page material. It was OK though…you knew he was much better than that. The stories you heard - “Jimmy Conyers stories” - that spread through campus, the praise he’d received from just about anyone who watched him play…you knew he would get better. It would only be a matter of time until he broke through and forced himself into the starting lineup. Just wait…he’ll step up any game now…
Along the way, he has had some good games this season - match-ups against Binghamton, Nevada, YSU, and St. Francis to name a few - but we still keep waiting for that breakout game. And for many of us, our thought process is a bit different now. We’re not sure of what we know about the guy. Maybe he’s not what we thought…maybe he’s just a good role player…
A lot of that comes from what we’ve seen this season. Conyers has played in 27 games, averaging just 2.5 PPG, 1.6 RPG, and 0.6 APG. He often seems uncomfortable within the offense and hesitant to be aggressive towards the basket, failing to use the athleticism and explosiveness we’ve all heard so much about. He hasn’t been bad…but he hasn’t been that good either. And to be fair to Conyers, he is still in his first year of play and hasn’t gotten regular playing time - it is definitely far too early to fully judge him as a player.
As Adam Ferrise reports, Linhart isn’t expected to be back this year, so Akron will need someone to step up into the role Linhart played and at least provide solid defense, rebounding, and a bit of scoring from time to time. It could be John Rybak, who has looked bad all year but played decently against Duquesne. Or it could be Jimmy Conyers, who started (but didn’t do much) in the win over the Dukes.
I firmly believe Akron has enough talent to win the MAC with the team as is, and with what the same production that Rybak and Conyers have provided so far this season - they are that good of a team. I’m not sure if it will happen, or how he’ll respond to a starting role with more playing time, but wouldn’t it be something if Conyers finally started stepped up his game now instead of say, next year? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if he played with more confidence and aggressiveness, took advantage of defensive mismatches, and provided the Zips with the spark they need to put them over the top and win the Mid American Conference Tournament? Wouldn’t it be great to see even a portion of the player we all wished and many of us still believe he can be?
I know one thing that is for sure - it would certainly make for the best “Jimmy Conyers story” yet.