When James Akinjo sat down with his high school coach, Bill Mellis, several months ago to talk about his future, he told Mellis that he wanted to commit to a school in the spring.
Mellis convinced him to wait a little longer.
“I told him that at some point in the fall, you’re gonna go on a trip and it’s just gonna feel right,” Mellis recalled.
Akinjo made that trip this past weekend to UConn. On Monday, the tenacious point guard committed to the Huskies. He’s the program’s first Class of 2018 commit.
“The welcoming we received from the Huskies upon our official visit was amazing,” Akinjo’s guardian, Rachel Jackson, said on Twitter. “We are proud to be a part of the Husky (family).”
Akinjo, a 6-foot point guard from Salesian College Preparatory in Richmond, California, blew up this summer with an MVP performance at the Peach Jam tournament in July, averaging 18.8 points, 6.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds in eight games while leading the Oakland Soldiers to a title. UConn had been on him long before that, however. Kevin Ollie saw him play in April and offered him a scholarship at that point. The Huskies’ early interest really resonated with Akinjo.
“It showed how much they care about me and the way I play,” he told scout.com.
The rest of the staff stayed on him throughout the summer and was impressed by his continued improvement and work ethic.
“He’s a ruthless player, plays real hard,” said Mellis. “He’s ultra-competitive. He wants to win, and he’s not afraid of the big moment, the magnitude of a big game. He feels comfortable in the limelight.”
Akinjo chose the Huskies over several Power Five programs, including Maryland, Iowa State and Virginia. He had official visits to the latter two schools planned, but obviously they have now been cancelled. Akinjo also made an unofficial visit to nearby Cal-Berkley.
Assuming Jalen Adams turns pro after this season, he could see immediate minutes next season, sharing point guard duties with current redshirt freshman Alterique Gilbert.
UConn has also been heavily recruiting Jaley Carey, a 6-foot-4 guard out of New Jersey who wants to play point, and Andrew Nembhard, a more traditional point guard. How Akinjo’s commitment affects Carey and Nembhard remains to be seen, but UConn’s staff is now directing much of its focus to a center and a wing who can score from the 2018 class.