When it comes to discussing some of the game of basketball’s best players, specifically those who went directly from high school to the NBA, a question that’s often asked is where said player would have attended college if forced (by rule) to do so. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are among those who have been discussed in this manner, and in the case of LeBron he’s got connections to two programs within his home state of Ohio.
LeBron’s connected with the Ohio State program, which is outfitted by the Nike’s LeBron signature line, but there’s another program with an even closer connection. That would be Akron, which is led by head coach Keith Dambrot, and all he did was serve as LeBron’s high school coach at St. Vincent/St. Mary’s HS in Akron during the player’s freshman and sophomore years at the school. Also on those teams were two future Akron Zips in guard Dru Joyce and forward Romeo Travis.
Thursday the school announced that it would be honoring James, Joyce and Travis with bobble head dolls to be given out before Akron’s home games against Buffalo (February 16; Joyce’s bobble head), Bowling Green (February 26; Travis) and Ohio (March 1; James).
All three bobble head dolls are wearing Akron uniforms, which in the case of LeBron allows fans to think back and imagine what could have been. Season ticket holders guaranteed one bobble head per account (on each of the three giveaway days), with the first 750 fans in attendance to receive one as well.
Keith Dambrot had arguably his best season as a head coach in 2012-2013, as he led Akron to a 26-6 record, a division title, a trip to the NCAA tournament and, for the first time in school history, a spot in the top 25.
Akron rewarded Dambrot with a one-year contract extension, meaning that he will continue to have as much job security as any coach in the country. Dambrot is now under contract through the 2022-2023 season.
“There’s few coaches lucky enough to have the opportunity to coach at a university they played for, where their mother was a professor and where their children attend school,” Dambrot said in a statement. “The progress we have made as a program and the commitment from The University and the community make this one of the premier jobs in the nation. I want to thank Dr. Proenza, the Board of Trustees and Tom for all they have done for us.”
Dambrot is 210-94 overall and 107-41 in the MAC during his tenure. He’s led the Zips to at least 22 wins the past six seasons. Only five other schools — Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Ohio State and Pittsburgh — can make that claim. That’s impressive company.
With speculation about a possible move to Duquesne recently rejected, Akron coach Keith Dambrot released a statement Thursday afternoon that reaffirmed his commitment to the Akron program and reported that the university is working with the coach to “modify the terms of [Dambrot’s] current contract.”
“I am extremely happy to be the head coach at my alma mater and I am not a candidate for any other coaching positions,” Dambrot said in the statement. “I grew up in Akron, my mother taught here and this is where my friends and family live. The University administration and I are committed to our goal of making the Zips one of the top mid-major programs in the nation.”
Dambrot has overseen a successful era in Akron basketball. His team has made the postseason in six of the last seasons, including a trip to the NIT this season, finishing with a mark of 22-12, 13-3 in the MAC.
He has an overall record of 184-87 at Akron.
Prior to his time at Akron, Dambrot coached LeBron James for two seasons at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s in Ohio, leading that team to two consecutive state titles.
In the release, Akron said details of the contract alteration would be released when they are finalized.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_