Sean Miller has not been coy when describing Emmanuel Akot as a defender, comparing him to former Arizona greats like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
“Watching the past film, I can understand why,” Akot said. “We’re both very good defensive players and bring energy on the court.”
Yet, in his (unofficial) Wildcat debut, it was Akot’s offensive game that garnered most of the attention.
The 6-foot-7 freshman had 10 points and six assists in 25 minutes off the bench against Eastern New Mexico on Wednesday.
“He’s very well-rounded,” Miller said. “We can play him a lot of different positions. He does a lot of good things, but very good court vision. Some of the best plays he’ll make are the ones where he passes the ball to a teammate.”
Akot was 4-5 from the field and 2-2 from 3, willingly shooting from the perimeter — a welcomed sight for Miller.
“That’s an area that we’ve really been on him about because he’s more of a pass-first player,” Miller said. “He’s incredibly unselfish, but we need him to take the open shots when he’s given those. … It was great to see him step in with confidence because when he does that, he already does some other things.”
Akot, once an option at point guard but now spending his time on the wing, had not shown much of a scoring prowess in his previous appearances with the Wildcats.
He was 0-6 from the field in the Red-Blue game and scored six points on six shots in the two exhibitions in Spain.
But he came out firing Wednesday, scoring all 10 of his points in the first half.
“I’ve been working on my shot all summer,” Akot said.
Perhaps the only negative in Akot’s performance Wednesday was that he only tracked down one rebound, an area the Wildcats struggled in as a team, surrendering 17 offensive boards to the Division II Greyhounds.
“You could tell he’s not used to doing that as much ... but there’s nothing like game experience to teach him so that he’s more accustomed to helping us,” Miller said.
Akot was originally going to join the Wildcats for the 2018-19 season, but he reclassified to 2017, allowing him to enroll at the UA this fall.
Despite being one of the youngest players on the team, Akot said the transition to Tucson hasn’t been difficult since he lived alone for two years while in prep school.
Plus, Arizona beats Canada.
“He tells me all the time that he’s just thankful that he’s not in Winnipeg right now as it’s getting close to winter,” Miller said. “That’s a big trade right there. Winnipeg, Canada and Tucson, Arizona. I think he really appreciates being here and he’s mature beyond his years. … He knows that he needs to improve, but he also knows that we’re really counting on him."
With Rawle Alkins out until December, Akot and Brandon Randolph are expected to split time at small forward until Alkins’ return.
Replacing Alkins’ all-around game will be difficult, but Akot showed Wednesday that his skill set isn’t exactly one-dimensional.
He can pass, shoot, and, perhaps in time, defend like Hollis-Jefferson.
“I think I’m extremely versatile,” Akot said. “I can play both ends of the floor.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire