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Reviewing Emmanuel Akot’s freshman season at Arizona

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2018-19 could be Akot’s year to shine

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Boise Practice Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats’ season has ended, so we’re going to take a look back at how each player fared during the year and what’s next for them. Yesterday, we reviewed Brandon Randolph’s freshman season. Next up is another freshman — Emmanuel Akot.

Emmanuel Akot

2017-18 stats

· 1.8 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 0.8 APG, 10.4 MPG

· 38.9 FG%, 37.5 3PT%, 45.5 FT%

Best games

· vs. Northern Arizona: 7 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block

· vs. UMBC: 6 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 2-2 3PT

2017-18 in review

After such a long and emotionally exhausting season, it could be easy to forget that Emmanuel Akot wasn’t even supposed to be a Wildcat this season. He was originally a commit for the upcoming 2018-19 season but elected to reclassify to 2017 back in May. At the time, it was widely considered a victory for Akot and the Wildcats. An elite 2018 recruit coming on a year early, almost ensuring that he was not going to be a one-and-done like teammate Deandre Ayton, but instead get a year under his belt and be able to contribute right away.

And contribute he did. He began the season with a starting spot in place of the injured Rawle Alkins. Akot filled the stat sheet in his first game as a Wildcat against Northern Arizona and followed that up with solid performances against UMBC and Cal State Bakersfield.

His game with Bakersfield was cut short due to a knee issue flaring up and limited him to only 16 minutes that night. However, even knowing his knee was acting up, it would have been hard to guess that he would only top 15 minutes three more times in the season.

On the Wildcats infamous Bahamas trip, Akot played sparingly in losses to NC State and Purdue. He didn’t hit a shot during the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament, going 0-for-7 from the floor, and appeared to be slower defensively, especially in his 22 minutes in the loss to SMU.

Akot had a rough go of it following that. He was dealing with knee tendinitis and picking up minor minutes while the Wildcats crawled out of the hole they dug themselves in during Battle 4 Atlantis.

In an eight-game stretch that spanned from late November to early January, Akot played double-digits minutes just once and received three DNP’s during that time.

For someone that had expectations to live up to, this came as a surprise. And while the tendinitis was clearly a factor, Sean Miller pointed out that Akot’s highly-touted defense wasn’t what the Wildcats were expecting early on.

“He’s not a defensive stopper right now,” Miller said in late November.

Akot was able to somewhat turn things around in Pac-12 play. As his knee improved, he was able to give valuable minutes to Arizona when his name was called. After struggling to get on the floor for a month and a half, Akot got at least seven minutes of playing time in every game from January 25 until the Pac-12 Tournament.

He was able to showcase a knack for hustle plays and strong on-ball defense. He didn’t contribute much on the offensive end, never topping the seven points he put up in the season opener. Plus, he wasn’t as aggressive with the ball as one would hope for such an athletic wing but Akot showed flashes of potential to leave Wildcat fans excited for his future.

What’s next?

Akot’s moments of potential will need to be a lot more than just “flashes” in the 2018-19 season, as Akot will be one of just six returning Wildcats. Arizona is set to lose their entire starting five to either the NBA or graduation.

With no recruits currently signed on to join next year’s Wildcats, Akot is expected to have a prominent role. Considering how highly-regarded he was coming out of high school and the fact that he came to Arizona a year early, Akot could have the highest expectations of anyone next season.

This year could have been called a “freebie.” He knew he wasn’t going to test the NBA after his freshman season and he knew he wasn’t going to be thrust into a starting role in his first year in Tucson. It was more like Akot was getting a head start on a wonderful college career.

The head start didn’t exactly go according to plan between his knee problems, his lack of a role for much of the season and the team’s final result. But with an eye on 2018, this could end up being Akot’s team – and the Wildcats are going to need a whole lot more from him to survive.

While his defense and effort finished the season strong, one thing Akot needs to work on is his offensive mentality. In his stats listed above, you see a putrid free throw percentage which would suggest Akot has no shooting touch whatsoever.

While his shot isn’t perfect, the fact is that Akot showed no aggression on offense and only ended up with 11 free throw attempts on the season, making only five.

With more minutes on the floor and more time with the ball in his hands, Akot needs to settle for jumpers less and get to the rim. This season he took 54 shots and 24 of them were from beyond the arc (though he did make nine of them). Between his build and size, he’ll likely be the best athlete on the team and if he embraces the athletic style on offense, he’ll be that much closer to living up to his potential.

Quotable

“The jump makes sense. As a freshman, you watch the older guys, how they play, what they’re good at and how they were successful and add that to your game. So I see the jump. It makes sense. I’m going to make that jump.” – Emmanuel Akot on making the patented freshman-to-sophomore leap