With SU basketball heading to the NCAA Tournament to take on Arizona State on Wednesday, a lot of the focus surrounding the program has been on the current construction of the roster. However, there have been some new developments in the past week or so regarding what the roster could and will look like in the future.
Just a few days after both Darius Bazley (2018) and Jalen Carey (2018) were invited to play in the Jordan Brand Classic and Brycen Goodine (2019) saw his ranking on 247sports.com move up to four stars, SU made another move to try to improve its future.
According to ESPN’s Adam Finkelstein, the Orange is the latest team to get in on the sweepstakes for Akok Akok, a four-star forward in the class of 2019. Rated as the 57th-best player in his class, Akok plays at Putnam Science Academy in Putnam, CT, the 2018 National Prep Championship, so we already know this guy is a winner.
Standing at 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Akok is a long and rangy, which makes him an especially skilled defender. He is already a fantastic shot blocker (he had 14 blocks in one game this season) for his size and age and that will only continue to develop as he matures both physically and mentally. That length is obviously a plus on the defensive end, but what makes him nearly an elite level shot blocker is his quickness and athleticism. He has the ability to guard multiple positions because of that mobility and is also an elite level leaper which lets him go get shots that he doesn’t have any business swatting.
The surprising thing about a guy with Akok’s size and wingspan is that his offensive game is much more perimeter-centric than you’d think. He is a fantastic three-point shooter that knocks down triples with ease. That helps him stretch the floor immensely, something that SU is desperately lacking on this year’s team with the likes of Matthew Moyer, Marek Dolezaj and Paschal Chuwku manning the frontcourt positions.
A guy like Akok is the perfect guy to play the pick and roll with because he can either go pick up and pop and knock down an open jumper, or he could be a much more reliable and capable form of Paschal Chukwu and draw defenders off the roll into the lane, leaving the guards with open shots or easy paths to the basket.
While the perimeter part of his offensive game is by far his strongest, Akok is also starting to improve his ability to get to the rim and finish near the bucket. He’s got a pretty good first step for someone his size and has flashed an ability to finish with a soft touch near the rim while also being able to be a bit more aggressive and throw down some dunks.
Now there is a lot of upside to Akok, but there are a few things he needs to work on before and when he gets to college to really solidify him as a true stud. As we speak, he has little to know back-to-the-basket post game which is really a problem for a guy his size and position. You’d like to see him develop a few more post moves if possible to make him a more complete offensive player.
Part of the reason he hasn’t developed that post game is that he’s a bit slender. That takes away some of the strength you’d like to see in a true post player. That lack of strength means he can’t go toe-to-toe with some bigger forwards or centers and gets bullied both defensively and on the glass. He needs to bulk up a bit more and work on his strength before he really makes that next leap.
Overall, there’s a lot to like about Akok and he would be a great piece both offensively and defensively for Jim Boeheim in the future, but it’s not going to be easy to get him in Orange. Akok already has offers from Louisville, Virginia Tech and St. Bonaventure with likely many more to come.