If Akognon, the former Casa Grande star recently named the Big West Conference Player of the Year, found himself in front of the tube, he would position an ottoman a couple of feet in front of a chair. He?d prop his feet on the ottoman and in the small space under his legs he?d dribble a basketball.
Back-and-forth, back-and-forth, like a metronome the ball would go, for as long as he sat in front of the television. Those HBO movies must have killed a lot of carpet at the Akognon home.
He?d dribble the ball going out to fetch the mail. He?d dribble the ball going to the store. He would go to sleep ? Akognon swore this was true, er, oops, Josh is the son of a minister, OK, he didn?t swear ? with a basketball cradled in his arms. If he went into a bank, Akognon would dribble the ball there. He?d be in the garage dribbling three basketballs at once.
You know how people go through different phases in their lives? Akognon measures his by basketball.
?I went through a phase in which I spun the basketball on one finger wherever I went,? he said.
His dad, Emmanuel, a Baptist pastor at a church in Marin City, would even let his son take a basketball with him inside the church during services.
?But no dribbling inside,? moaned Akognon, his head sagging in disappointment. He put the basketball under the pew, between his ankles and, yep, the guess here is, the ankles dribbled a little bit during the services. And, apparently, no spinning either.
Akognon took that desire, and a smooth jump shot, and made himself the talk of the Empire when he was at Casa. He was Northern California Division II Player of the Year in 2004, nominated as a McDonald?s All-American. He accepted a scholarship to Washington State, left there after a year, unhappy with the offense that ran at a snail?s pace, and transferred to Cal State Fullerton, where he just finished his senior season averaging 23.9 points a clip.
Of course there is only one place for Akognon to go from here.
?If Josh were 6-foot-6,? said a NBA West Coast scout, ?you couldn?t talk to him; you?d have to go through his agent. Josh already would have his seat reserved at the lottery table, already would have met (commissioner David) Stern. Because he can put the ball in the basket at a phenomenal rate, if Josh were 6-foot-6 he?d be a lottery pick in the (June 25) draft.?
But Akognon is 5-foot-11. To some people, it?s like he has an unusual middle name: Josh He?s Only 5-foot-11 Akognon.
?I?m addicted to proving people wrong,? said Akognon, 23. ?When I was a sophomore at Casa people told me I wasn?t good enough to play JVs (junior varsity).?
That is the same guy who just had his number (1) retired at Fullerton, an honor afforded to the conference?s MVP.
So he?s too small. So he comes from the Empire, where a player has yet to make it in the NBA. So he comes from a small college conference that hasn?t produced many big NBA names. So he wasn?t a playmaker in college, 5-foot-11 guards need to be playmakers in the NBA. So his turnovers-assist ratio this season at Fullerton was nearly 2-to-1, the NBA prefers the exact opposite ratio.