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Mark Cuban calls, Josh Akognon answers


Josh Akognon confirmed Wednesday that he will open training camp with the Dallas Mavericks in a week and a half. His decision to sign on with the Mavs was based largely on an old adage: It's good to have friends in high places.

After a strong summer-league performance with the Sacramento Kings in Las Vegas, Akognon — who starred at Casa Grande High before playing at Washington State, Cal State Fullerton and with several professional teams overseas — had been wooed by at least seven NBA teams. They included the Orlando Magic, New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks and San Antonio Spurs, in addition to the Mavericks and Kings.

What led him to Dallas?

"Mark Cuban," was Akognon's two-word answer.

The sharp-shooting Akognon led the Kings with a 19.3-point scoring average during the summer. And after one particularly strong game against the Lakers, he said, his agent got a congratulatory call from the Mavericks owner.

"He said he felt I could be a much better Eddie House," Akognon said, referring to the 11-year NBA veteran. "He talked about how they had just lost Jason Terry, and they had lost J.J. Barea the year before. Those guys were not true point guards, either, but they were able to learn the position. For him to have that much enthusiasm in my game — no other owner was calling my agent."

Akognon was a shooting guard in college. But because he's considered short for the position at 5-foot-11, teams have been shaping him into a point guard for the past few years.

Josh Akognon confirmed Wednesday that he will open training camp with the Dallas Mavericks in a week and a half. His decision to sign on with the Mavs was based largely on an old adage: It's good to have friends in high places.

After a strong summer-league performance with the Sacramento Kings in Las Vegas, Akognon — who starred at Casa Grande High before playing at Washington State, Cal State Fullerton and with several professional teams overseas — had been wooed by at least seven NBA teams. They included the Orlando Magic, New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks and San Antonio Spurs, in addition to the Mavericks and Kings.

What led him to Dallas?

"Mark Cuban," was Akognon's two-word answer.

The sharp-shooting Akognon led the Kings with a 19.3-point scoring average during the summer. And after one particularly strong game against the Lakers, he said, his agent got a congratulatory call from the Mavericks owner.

"He said he felt I could be a much better Eddie House," Akognon said, referring to the 11-year NBA veteran. "He talked about how they had just lost Jason Terry, and they had lost J.J. Barea the year before. Those guys were not true point guards, either, but they were able to learn the position. For him to have that much enthusiasm in my game — no other owner was calling my agent."

Akognon was a shooting guard in college. But because he's considered short for the position at 5-foot-11, teams have been shaping him into a point guard for the past few years.

Because of the disparity, the pragmatic Akognon considered turning down the offer. He was encouraged by his father, Emmanuel, and by long-time mentor Jeremy Russotti (his coach at Casa Grande) to give the Mavericks a shot. They stressed that a short-term financial loss could be a long-term gain if Josh were able to latch on with an NBA team.

"I have nothing to lose and everything to gain," Akognon said. "I'm really looking two or three weeks down the road, and a couple years down the road."

(You can reach Press Democrat staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.)