Sports

Outstanding Freshman recipient, Abe Akanmu, ready for Year Two

Reggie Miller enjoyed a Hall of Fame basketball career with the Indiana Pacers after altering his shot at a young age because his older sister — also a Hall of Famer — used to block it.

Though Abe Akanmu of the men’s basketball team may never reach the level of play Miller did, he can at least somewhat relate to the star’s beginnings.

“I got into basketball because my older sister used to play and I wanted to do everything just like her,” Akanmu said. “I fell in love with the game and the rest is history.”

The standout sophomore started playing basketball at age 5 and the experience has shown throughout his hard work, dedication and leadership inside Fitzgerald Gym.

Akanmu received East Coast Conference All-Rookie honors as well as a QC Outstanding Freshman award last year. The point guard averaged 8.0 points per game and dished out 35 assists in only 13 games played. He missed much of

the early and middle portions of the season because of a knee injury. He was named East Coast Conference Rookie of the Week Nov. 14, 2011 and later scored a season-high 25 points in a game against St. Thomas Aquinas on Feb. 1.

Last year, explained Akanmu, was an up and down season for not only him but for the entire squad. After starting the season off strong with a winning record, the team faltered and ended 2011-12 with an overall 4-22 mark. A torn PCL in his left knee robbed the Staten Island-native of 13 games but he plans on coming back strong this season and leading the team to a much better ending.

“The goal is always to win the championship,” said Akanmu. “The key is to take it step by step. This year, we need to focus on getting into the playoffs and then we will take it from there.”

Akanmu loves the game for its competitive nature, which fuels his drive toward greatness.

“I hate losing but love the game. It’s what I care about,” he said.

As a junior in Xaverian High School, the political science major knew he wanted to be a Knight.

“Head coach Kyrk Peponakis recruited me to be a big part of the team,” said Akanmu. “I like being a leader and always want to be.”

Peponakis recognized Akanmu’s potential in high school and wanted the 5’11 guard to be a part of the Knights’ future roster.

“He is a solid all-around guard who can not only shoot but defend,” said Peponakis. “He knows the game very well and he is a leader on the court.”

His most memorable basketball achievement, in fact, occurred in that same junior year. Akanmu’s Xaverian squad beat three nationally ranked high school teams — Christ the King, Bishop Loughlin and Rice — during their 2009-2010 season.

“We beat top teams in the nation,” said Akanmu. “That was big for me.”

A similar scenario can play out for Akanmu and the Knights this season as LIU-Post was predicted to repeat as ECC champions in a preseason poll.

Such an achievement won’t be accomplished by luck, as Akanmu knows. Akanmu recognizes important similarities between basketball and life.

“Basketball teaches you a lot about life,” he explained. “It teaches you to work as a team, work ethic, responsibility, discipline and how to listen.”

In the future, Akanmu can’t see himself abandoning his love of the sport. He said that he could see himself as a coach or running a camp or clinic; he cannot let his passion go.

Akanmu is a rare kind of student-athlete who is totally committed to the game. When he is not playing basketball, he is watching it on TV. He completely engulfs himself in the sport to better his physical and mental game.

On the court, you can catch Akanmu appropriately sporting a symbolic jersey number.

“I chose number one because I want to be the best,” Akanmu said.

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