Akok Akok’s recruitment has been full of unexpected twists and turns.
UPDATE: Akok has committed to UCONN.
The 6-foot-9 forward first broke out in the spring of 2017, after spending much of his first prep school season developing his game and body on the Putnam Science bench, when he had a starring performance with the Mass Rivals on the Adidas Gauntlet picking up his first batch of high-major offers including Rick Pitino’s Louisville program.
He returned to Putnam last year ready to take on an increased role and ended up doing that and more as he was a huge part of their run to the National Prep Championship. After an up and down spring, he again asserted himself with the Rivals last July, starring at the Adidas Summer Championships in Los Angeles.
Coming out of the summer, Akok named five favorites and set official visits to each. Behind the scenes though there was a buzz that he was considering not returning to Putnam and while that reportedly would have meant pending difficulties getting through the NCAA Eligibility Center, a year in the NBA G-League was a new possibility before being draft eligible in 2019.
Akok did end up back at Putnam and took all five visits – Providence, Georgetown, Connecticut, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh – in consecutive weeks beginning in late September and continuing through October.
The timing of those visits, and Akok’s own statements on his recruitment, indicated he was planning on signing a binding National Letter of Intent during November’s early signing period.
To everyone’s surprise, that period came and went without a decision. Instead there was a new headline, that Akok was considering a jump to the 2019 NBA Draft. That news came just days before the National Prep Showcase and with more than half of the NBA franchises already credentialed to get a look at Brewster Academy guard Jalen Lecque, it was a quick way to get evaluated by the NBA masses.
Unfortunately, his performance in New Haven didn’t warrant further NBA attention. He had six points and 3 rebounds in 24 minutes of action in an overtime win over Sunrise Christian and identical stats a day later in 20 minutes against CBD Montverde.
Scouts didn’t get to see a game that is, in many ways, tailored to the modern NBA game with his size, length, and ability to both stretch the floor with his shooting range and also protect the rim with bouncy athleticism on the defensive end. Instead, they saw a player who, for whatever reason, wasn’t fully engaged and displayed a questionable motor, despite professional scouts there to see him.
One week after that performance, there was another headline. This time Akok announced he was withdrawing from Putnam Science, citing the fact that he had graduated the previous June, and returning home to study for the December SAT with plans on enrolling in college at mid-year.
So where will he end up?
The buzz following his visits was that UConn and Pittsburgh had emerged as the front-runners for his services. He had been to UConn’s campus numerous times, including multiple games this season, and the allure that Dan Hurley had brought to the program matched by the immediate opportunity was intriguing.
Quietly though, Pittsburgh had been gaining momentum behind the scenes. They too had a brand new boss and correlating energy thanks to the arrival of former Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel and Akok was a top priority for them as well. They too had an immediate opportunity to sell, along with the ACC, and Capel’s background at both Duke and as the head coach at Oklahoma before that.
Providence had all but dropped out of the race and both Syracuse and Georgetown weren’t getting nearly the same amount of traction.
So where does it stand now?
That remains a bit of a mystery. UConn is the perceived favorite, but when it comes to Akok’s recruiting process, history has taught us to expect the unexpected.
With the Huskies, he’d have a chance to compete for a spot in the starting line-up from day one and join a recruiting class that is already loaded in the backcourt with James Bouknight and Jalen Gaffney. Hurley’s style could be a perfect fit too as he’s known not just for his demanding style but also his ability to connect with his players. That could go a long way with Akok, a player whose talent is both undeniable and continuing to emerge, but whose everyday production hasn’t always been as consistent as it needs to be.
Whether or not he sees it that way or is again intrigued by other ideas is something that everyone, most of all Dan Hurley and Jeff Capel, are waiting to find out.
Watch URI vs Brown Wednesday November 28th at 7:00pm on YurView, channels 4 and 1004 for Cox customers in Rhode Island.