The Arizona Wildcats made a splash at the turn of the decade, landing Georgetown transfer James Akinjo in the early morning on New Year’s Day.
The sophomore point guard and reigning Big East Freshman of the Year averaged 13.4 points, 5.1 assists, and 1.3 steals per game in 40 career games (39 starts) at Georgetown, while shooting 36 percent from the field, 36.1 percent from 3, and 81.2 percent from the free-throw line.
With Nico Mannion likely headed to the NBA Draft after the season, Akinjo has a strong chance to be Arizona’s starting point guard next season, though it remains to be see when he will be eligible.
We wanted to know more about him, so we caught up with Andrew Geiger from our sister site CasualHoya.com to get more insight on the Georgetown transfer.
Here’s our Q&A.
How would you best sum up Akinjo’s time at Georgetown?
Obviously I’ll go with disappointing. Akinjo came to Georgetown as Patrick Ewing’s first major recruit after decommitting from UConn when Kevin Ollie was fired, and was projected to be our starter at point guard for four years. He won Big East Freshman of the Year and was expected to lead the Hoyas to the NCAA Tournament this season and beyond.
What are Akinjo’s strengths and weaknesses as a player?
Akinjo has a great handle, is lightning quick and can create his own shot with relative ease. The problem has been that he can’t always get his shot off and has struggled to finish against taller opponents. His perimeter game improved from his freshman to sophomore campaigns, and he is an adept passer as well. On the downside, and what likely ultimately led to his decision to leave Georgetown, is that he seemingly wants to be both the primary ball handler as well as the go-to guy on offense, which creates problems when the coach wants you to use your talents as a passer and distributor.
It seems like Akinjo was much better as a freshman. What changed?
I don’t necessarily agree that he was better as a freshman and he showed signs that he was maturing in his limited sophomore season. I would have liked to see how he developed as a point guard and playmaker over the course of this season and his career at Georgetown, but alas we won’t get that chance. He clearly wants to be an alpha guy, but I’m not that optimistic he’ll get that chance at Arizona either with the talented roster that you have. He may have been sold on “Point Guard U” but in my view he’s not really there as a point guard just yet.
What do you think is Akinjo’s ceiling as a player?
This really depends on his willingness to be a prototypical point guard. If he can confine himself to that role he can probably be one of the better point guards in the Pac-12. However, if he continues to want to operate as the team’s primary offensive option, he may ultimately be frustrating to Sean Miller and Wildcats fans.
Why did Akinjo transfer?
It really came down to what Ewing expected of him and what he was willing and not willing to do. As noted above, Ewing wanted to take advantage of his skills as a playmaker, whereas Akinjo seemingly wanted to be the main guy all of the time. That didn’t work in Georgetown’s scheme, and there were some rumors of discord between him and Mac McClung, who tended to grab a lot of the headlines and highlights.
Should Arizona fans feel good about the possibility of Akinjo being the starting point guard next year?
Sure. He’s a very talented player and is going to help Arizona win games. His struggles to finish are going to frustrate at times, and ultimately it will be up to Akinjo to decide what he wants to be as a player.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim had some sharp comments about Akinjo, saying he “wouldn’t pass the ball to anybody and just shot it every time” and that Akinjo “lost two games for [Georgetown] by himself.” He also said Georgetown is better without him. How accurate are those statements?
I think most Georgetown fans would agree 100 percent with Boeheim (I can’t believe I just wrote that). Akinjo’s talent is so great that it makes it all the more frustrating when he just wouldn’t listen to Ewing at the end of games and tried to do too much with the ball in his hands. It’s not a coincidence that Georgetown’s recent surge was without Akinjo, as ball movement has greatly improved. It will certainly be interesting to see how Akinjo does in the desert, and you can bet Hoyas fans will be watching.