Just under two years ago, Quincy Diggs was named MAC Sixth Man of the year and was a vital cog in Akron's wheel heading into the MAC tournament. The Zips made it to the MAC Championship game and faced Ohio in one of their many thrillers in this rivalry. The game ended on a desperation full court miss by Diggs as the Zips fell just short 64-63 to the Bobcats. Diggs and the Zips hung their heads as the Bobcat faithful rushed the court in jubilation.
The Zips should have had nothing to hang their heads on. The junior class including Diggs, Brian Walsh, Zeke Marshall, Chauncey Gilliam were all returning in 2012-2013, along with a strong sophomore class of Demetrius Treadwell, Alex Abreu, and Nick Harney. The future was bright for the young Zips and all expectations were they would return to the championship game and win it this time.
But as the oncoming 2012-2013 season approached and anticipation mounted, the news came out that Diggs had been suspended for the season. The details of the suspension were not completely clear at the time and more than a year later still aren't 100 percent clear. It appeared to be an academic suspension at first, but there were also reports of two fights with an ex-girlfriend. What we did know was that Diggs wasn't going to be involved with the basketball team, or even enrolled for at the University, for the 2012-2013 year.
The Zips moved on without Diggs and had a memorable season. The senior class of Marshall, Walsh, and Gilliam capped off their careers with a MAC championship and an NCAA tournament berth. The same class that once included Diggs.
The road back to the Zips was not an easy one for Diggs who was taking 19 credit hours at the online American Public University while working 12 hour shifts at Illumetek. He did all of this in hopes of returning to the University of Akron and rejoining the basketball team. Hopes that may not have come to fruition. It became official in May of last year that Diggs had officially reinstated by the University and that Dambrot was welcoming him back to the team.
Some would argue that Diggs' full-year suspension was too harsh, especially in light of other recent MAC suspensions. Others would argue that the suspension wasn't harsh enough and Diggs should not have been allowed to return to the team. I'm not the best arbiter when it comes to athlete punishments and do not know the full details of the incidents, so I'd leave that decision in the hands of Keith Dambrot. Redemption isn't earned by success on the basketball court or even long hours at Illumetek, but all indications are Diggs is grateful for his second chance and has taken full advantage of it.
We here at Hustle Belt were high on Diggs coming into the season, but he has exceeded all expectations. Frankly, he has been much more valuable to the Zips this season than he would have been last season. The versatility Diggs offers has been key for the Zips and allows Dambrot to explore multiple line-up variations. He can play guard, he can play forward, he can come off the bench, and plays hard on both sides of the ball. The numbers have been solid for Diggs averaging 12.1 points and 4.4 rebounds, but they don't speak to the full extent of Diggs' value.
Diggs showed early how valuable he was scoring 26 points on 9-14 shooting in a losing effort at Middle Tennessee. Diggs' efforts paid dividends in one of the games of the year against Ohio. Finishing with 20 points and seven rebounds, Diggs seemed to come up with big play after big play and willed the Zips to victory in double overtime. Diggs once again showed his clutch ability as he knocked down the game-winning jumper against Bowling Green. It makes you wonder where the Zips would be without Diggs.
The image of last year's senior class holding the MAC Championship trophy may have been missing Diggs, but he has earned his second chance and will not let it slip away.