UConn junior forward Akok Akok had a very promising rookie season in Storrs. He started all but one game he played in averaging 5.5 points and 5.5 rebounds while displaying breathtaking potential. Coming out of Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut, Akok was a raw talent who showed a lot of promise.
He really shined was on the defensively, leading the AAC with 2.6 blocks per game in 2019-20, which also ranked No. 12 nationally. Akok gave a preview of why he can be so special in a Jimmy V Classic game against Indiana, going 4-5 from the floor (1-2 from three) with five boards while also blocking five shots. Things seemed to be falling into place for the freshman until his injury.
On February 16th, 2020, the Huskies were taking on Memphis at the XL Center. About a minute in, Akok blocked a shot but landed awkwardly before hitting the floor. After the game, Dan Hurley appeared on the verge of tears as he confirmed the likely severity of the injury.
“It looks like the Achilles,” said Hurley. “Sports are brutal sometimes, life is brutal sometimes. Akok will come back from this and be that special player that he deserves to be, destined to be.”
That time may be now. Akok Akok appears to have fully recovered.
“I feel amazing compared to back in March,” Akok told the Hartford Courant. “My body feels incredible. I feel much healthier. This summer is the most that I’ve felt, ‘I’m back.’”
He actually made his initial return on January 9th, 2021 against Butler, less than 11 months after his heartbreaking injury. In the 72-60 win, Akok played just six minutes, logging 2 points on 1-2 shooting from the floor. He played in just six out of the remaining fifteen games last season, never seeing more than ten minutes of court action.
It was definitely a frustrating season for Akok. He didn’t appear to be at full strength so UConn wasn’t able to use him as the Huskies made their return to the Big East and also the NCAA Tournament.
This year, he’s ready to help them build on last year’s success. The team will have a void in leadership and playmaking with James Bouknight heading to the NBA Draft, and Akok could be the right person to step into that kind of role.
“I want to prove myself that I am one of the best two-way players. I am trying to remind everyone who I was before the injury. Just trying to get back to where I was,” he said.
Akok has added significant muscle since coming to UConn, saying he added 15 points this offseason.
“I feel like added strength is going to help me inside, in the paint, with guys that are five-men, centers,” he said.
With a healthy Akok, along with the continued development of breakout center Adama Sanogo and the return of 2021 Co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year Isaiah Whaley, UConn should be a monster down low.
“We’re going to be one of the best frontcourts in the country,” Akok said. “We’re not gonna allow touches in the paint, going to be one of the best defensive frontcourts as well.”
With freshman Samson Johnson and sophomore Richie Springs also in the mix, the Huskies will also have good frontcourt depth. With a determined, healthy, and hungry Akok, the sky’s the limit for this upcoming season.
“It’s really redemption for me, coming to get what’s mine. Not coming to get - coming to take - what’s mine.”