Cleveland (WOIO) - When Akron Zips point guard Alex Abreu was arrested on Thursday afternoon on charges of drug trafficking and possession (Abreu and 18-year old Austin Durgala were caught with more than five pounds of marijuana at Durgala's Akron home), the reaction from head coach Keith Dambrot and university officials was telling. According to the Plain Dealer, Dambrot was almost distraught, saying only "I can't talk. I can't talk", while the school released a statement saying their star player had been "suspended indefinitely", pending a police investigation. Nobody rushed to Abreu's defense. Nobody said "this can't be true, he's a character guy". Nobody said "I can't believe it".
This isn't the first time Abreu has been suspended from the team. In November of 2011, he missed a game after violating "university policy". He came back from that, strong, leading the Zips to 24 wins this season, including 19 straight during one stretch, and had them on the verge of a trip to the Big Dance.
Maybe the Zips will still make that kind of run, beginning in the MAC tournament next week. Maybe one of the backup point guards, who seldom play, will rise to the occasion, and a new star will be born. But more likely, Abreu's arrest will blow this dream season up. He's that vital to their success, especially at tournament time.
Of course, some are already questioning whether the university will allow him to play, as the investigation proceeds, under the guise of "innocent until proven guilty". That would be a mistake. Everybody knows that Division 1 sports are big business, and we all understand what a trip to the Sweet 16 would mean for the University of Akron, but there are lessons to be learned at college, on and off the court, and the message the Zips would be sending, by allowing Abreu to play, would be a lesson in "win at all costs".
It's more than unfortunate that the Zips are in this situation. It's almost tragic, considering the win streak, team effort, and guidance of Coach Dambrot. But they'll have to try to rally together, and they should do it without Alex Abreu.
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