With the 2020-21 season long since in the books, let’s take a few moments to look back at the performance of each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles this year. While we’re at it, we’ll also take a look back at our player previews and see how our preseason prognostications stack up with how things actually played out. We’ll run through the roster in order of total minutes played going from lowest to highest, which means today we move on to the redshirt freshman on the roster.........
Redshirt Freshman - #12 - Guard - 6’4” - 205 lbs. - Valencia, California
Dexter Akanno Traditional Stats
Dexter Akanno Fancy Stats
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?
That’s about 1,000 words talking about what we thought Dexter Akanno may or may not be for the 2020-21 season.
And then Akanno played for just 63 total minutes all season.
Part, or maybe all of this might not be anyone’s fault in particular. Akanno missed the first two games of Marquette’s 2020-21 season with “COVID-related illness,” or at least that’s what then-head coach Steve Wojciechowski called it at the time. As such, it stands to reason that we don’t know whether or not we ever saw Dexter Akanno at full capacity this past season.
We know that the coaching staff kept giving him chances. Between December 1st against Oklahoma State and February 17th against Butler, Akanno appeared in 12 of Marquette’s 20 games, playing at least four minutes in all but two of those appearances. The coaches apparently kept thinking that they saw something in practice that was going to pan out in games.
And... well, it didn’t. Akanno played more than nine minutes in a game just once, getting 13 minutes of run in Marquette’s 70-67 home victory over Butler on February 2nd. After playing just two minutes in MU 73-57 win on the road against those same Bulldogs on February 17th, Akanno would not play again in MU’s final five games of the season.
Misevaluation by Wojciechowski and his staff on how much Akanno would develop after redshirting for a year? Misevaluation by Wojciechowski and his staff on how much Akanno could contribute in the 12 games they did give him a chance to play and he never quite looked like he belonged on the court? Both? Neither, given the possibility that Akanno might not have been healthy the entire season?
No idea, honestly, and honestly, with so little time played, it’s hard to make any solid judgments either way about his season.
Oh, this is easy. Akanno had four points in Marquette’s 85-68 home loss to Villanova on December 23rd. That’s a season high, and while he didn’t do anything else to contribute in nine minutes of action other than those four points, he also didn’t turn the ball over, so that’s a plus.
Much like for Oso Ighodaro, I can’t give Akanno anything but an incomplete. KenPom.com says he played in 6.1% of Marquette’s minutes in the season, and that’s just 13% of the minutes in the games he actually got on the court. That’s not enough time to say anything other than he couldn’t play for the Golden Eagles this past season.