The 2020-21 college basketball season is right around the corner, no matter what the coronavirus pandemic says, so let’s get into the Marquette Golden Eagles basketball roster and take a look at what to expect from each player this season. We’ll be going through the players one by one: First MU’s freshmen in alphabetical order, then the immediately eligible sophomore transfer, then the redshirt freshman, and then the five returning players, going in order of average minutes per game last season from lowest to highest.
We’re going to organize our thoughts about the upcoming season as it relates to each player into categories:
- Reasonable Expectations
- Why You Should Get Excited
- Potential Pitfalls
With that out of the way, we move on to talking about the redshirt freshman that made an awful lot of noise over the summer........
Redshirt Freshman - #12 - Guard - 6’4” - 205 lbs. - Valencia, California
So, whaddya think, should we just publish the entirety of last year’s Player Preview for Akanno and be done with it? We published that bad boy on October 18th last year. On November 5th, literally as Marquette was warming up to open the season against Loyola Maryland, we found out that Akanno would be redshirting for the season. I dunno if it took that long to go ahead and pull the trigger on the decision or if there was no point in announcing it until Akanno was actually going to sit out a game or what the deal was there. I can see the argument for holding that in your pocket until you have to say it. What if there’s a preseason injury that would lead to Akanno getting regular minutes? Then you have to explain why you’re pulling the redshirt. If you don’t announce it before MU’s first game, then you have to explain why you sat him out after the game and that just looks bad for everyone involved that you didn’t say something sooner.
ANYWAY, that was last year. Akanno got to sit back and see how the game day experience unfolds while still practicing with the team every single day. He had the opportunity to hone his game without any pressure of having to produce in a live situation, and in theory, he’s a better basketball player for it. If nothing else, he shaved five pounds off his frame, going from 210 on last year’s roster to 205 this time around. Generally speaking, if you’re losing weight after a year in a collegiate strength and conditioning program, then that was weight you could afford to lose and that’s good news for you.
We’re going to wrap up this section by stealing the opening paragraph from last year’s preview for Akanno. After all, it’s just talking about stats from his final two years of high school anyway.
He spent his senior year playing at Blair Academy in Blairstown, New Jersey. Akanno had success throughout high school with a season of 13.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists as a junior in Valencia before transferring to Blair Academy. During his senior year at Blair, he averaged 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. He was also an honorable mention all-league honoree while helping his team win the Mid-Atlantic Prep title in 2019.
None of that changed since October 2019, and it’s still the most recent data from Akanno in a game that counted. We did get to see him for 11 whole minutes against St. Norbert in last year’s exhibition game. He went 0-for-2 from the floor, 2-for-4 from the free throw line, and he grabbed two rebounds. Oh, and he committed four fouls. Yes, in 11 minutes. He played a little over three minutes in the first half as MU turned a three point lead into a 12 point advantage and then committed a foul and was lifted. He returned at the 10:30 mark of the second half with MU up 23. He committed three fouls in a 45 second stretch, got yanked, and did not return until there was five minutes left which is where he did everything on the stat sheet that wasn’t committing fouls. Against Division 3 St. Norbert.
Okay, look, I didn’t write that last paragraph to be mean to the guy. There’s a reason why the coaches wanted him to redshirt, and that kiiiiiiind of explains why. The fact that he came out of his year at Blair Academy as the #400 prospect in the Class of 2019 also chips in on that concept.
Here’s the good news about all of this: He’s a year older, he’s definitely a year more experienced in terms of knowing what the coaching staff wants him to do, and he’s a year smarter about the speed and physicality of Division 1 college basketball. In theory, all of this should knock together to give Akanno a chance to contribute to the team in one way or another this season.
We have to set the bar at “gives the team something at the very least” because there aren’t that many options on the active roster. There are only 10 guys on scholarship eligible to play for Marquette this season. Five of them have played for Marquette in a regular season game before. Five have not, but this is where Akanno has a leg up. While he has never actually played in a legit game before, he has been practicing with the team for a year. He should be much further along on the learning curve than any of the other four guys who have never pulled on the blue and gold before. In theory, that gives Akanno an edge on getting on the floor this year.
It’s not an edge over all of the other four guys, as two of them — Dawson Garcia and D.J. Carton — would project to be starters right out of the gate. Still, if Marquette is going to have some measure of success this season, it’s probably going to require all 10 guys to have a role on the court this season, and that means that Akanno has to be able to do his part.
It might not be a big part! T-Rank isn’t high on his contributions this season, but that’s what happens when you mix “#400 prospect” and “redshirt first year” into the algorithm. On average, that kind of guy just isn’t going to give you all that much, which is why it says he’s going to average 2.0 points and 1.2 rebounds while only playing in 12% of MU’s minutes. If you think he’s going to do more than that, then you’re more than welcome to do that.
Why You Should Get Excited
And sometimes you write five paragraphs just to intentionally wind yourself around to one sentence in order to use it as a transition. The more online amongst you may have spent some of your summer noticing open gym video involving Dexter Akanno popping up. Paint Touches got bored enough to knock together an article on this, so you can go read the whole break down of what we saw in one particular video.
Here’s the video that Paint Touches included:
Akanno’s the one in the light blue tank top. If you want to see the video isolated for the Akanno stuff, go check out the Paint Touches article, there’s two pulled clips there. The notable one is Akanno taking it to the rack against Donovan Mitchell. Yes, that Donovan Mitchell.
Okay, look. Yes, it’s a summer league/open gym type of setting against guys who had very little interest in making a stop as if their next meal depended on it. Please take all of this with the largest grain of salt you can possibly manage to hold in your hands. BUT. IF. If Akanno is even remotely capable of turning that into regular every day production against Division 1 players who are going to try very hard to stop him....... well. That could be a whole thing. I’m not saying “watch out for this dude going one-and-done” this year. That’s nuts. But making it to the point where the coaches need to make sure that Akanno’s playing at least 15 minutes a game and providing a huge offensive pop off the bench? That would be pretty good, I think.
I think it would be a notable mistake on everyone’s part if we draw clear parallels between Dexter Akanno and Sacar Anim, the only other player to end up as a voluntary/non-transfer redshirt on the Marquette roster under the direction of Steve Wojciechowski. It’s not because Anim barely chipped in as a freshman and then sat out his second season on campus while Akanno was held out during his first year at Marquette. No, I’m saying that because Anim went from “didn’t really factor” as a freshman to “is a starter playing 27 minutes a game” as a redshirt sophomore. That’s not happening here. Sacar Anim came to Marquette as a top 200 prospect and had earned Minnesota state player of the year awards on his way out of DeLaSalle as a senior. That’s not the kind of rep that Akanno has coming in, and expecting him to suddenly pop up as a major player is the kind of thing that goes badly for everyone.
The other major potential problem laying in the road in front of Akanno this year is Koby McEwen. I don’t know how the minutes are going to shake out at the three backcourt/wing positions for Marquette this year. It’s a legitimately big question in terms of what provides the Golden Eagles with their best opportunity to win. Based on what we saw last year, it certainly looks like McEwen is going to join D.J. Carton in the backcourt for the majority of the time. Can Akanno play the three with them? Is that primary job destined for Jamal Cain? What about Greg Elliott and Symir Torrence? If they pair with Carton, does that push McEwen to the 3? And finally, the big item yet to be answered and one that will wait for a different player preview: What if McEwen is as bad as he was in Big East play last season and Wojciechowski just rides with him for 30 minutes a night anyway? Worse: What if McEwen can’t get it done...... and the coaching staff doesn’t believe that Akanno can do better?