Photo courtesy of Georgetown University Athletics.
By David Cordova
This season, the Georgetown Hoyas showed plenty of resiliency and played their hearts out this season, despite their youth. In Patrick Ewing’s second season as the head coach, the program went to the first round of the National Invitational Tournament and finished 19-14.
James Akinjo was one of the key reasons for the progression of the Hoyas. The 6-foot point guard is a very aggressive player when going to the hole and can also lead a team to victory. His strong play, coupled with that of his fellow freshmen Mac McClung and Josh LeBlanc, is a sign that Georgetown is preparing for the future.
Akinjo hails from Oakland, California, which is a breeding ground for basketball talent in the Bay Area and is also the home of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. “It’s big, but it’s not as big as New York, but it’s big,” he replied of the basketball culture in Oakland.
In his high school days, he played with the Oakland Soldiers, a program that is a part of the Nike EYBL circuit and has produced NBA players such as Drew Gooden, Aaron Gordon, Stanley Johnson, LeBron James, Chauncey Billups and Kendrick Perkins. In the summer of 2017, Akinjo gained nationwide attention for his play at the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, South Carolina, where he led the Soldiers to a championship.
When asked about his experience with the Soldiers and at Peach Jam, he replied, “It was good, we fought hard in Peach Jam and we won, unexpectedly, so that was fun.”
As a senior at Salesian High School, he averaged 20.7 points, 5.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game and won the San Francisco Chronicle Metro Player of the Year award, Bay Area News Group Player of the Year and the SportsStars Magazine Player of the Year.
Last spring, Akinjo decided to commit to Georgetown. Today, he gets the opportunity to play for an all-time Hoya great in Patrick Ewing, who is also a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
When asked about the opportunity to play for a legend who once played in the same program, he replied, “I like playing for Coach Ewing, he’s a really good coach. What led me to him [and Georgetown] was his pursuit of me.”
This season, Akinjo averaged 13.4 points, 5.2 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game, which earned him Big East Freshman of the Year Award, which is given to the most outstanding freshman in the conference. When asked about his first season of collegiate basketball, he replied, “I think I did alright, it didn’t end how I wanted it to end, but I mean, it happens I guess, it’s basketball. I think I had a pretty good year.”
On his strengths and weaknesses, he replied, “I mean, my strengths are obviously my ability to create shots for others and myself, my shooting, I think. I’m just working on leading.”
For the next three years, the Hoyas will have Akinjo as its point guard and look forward to getting more success with him holding down the reins at the one. As he continues to grow as a player, there will be plenty to stay tuned for.
When asked where he sees himself moving forward with the Hoyas, he replied, “Winning, I want to win [and] get to the tournament.”
With all of the growing that the program is doing, that seems like a very real possibility. But for now, it’s back to the drawing board at the Hilltop.