Sean Miller envisions James Akinjo fitting into Arizona's 3-guard lineup
The last time Arizona head coach Sean Miller spoke about James Akinjo he had not yet arrived to Tucson from Georgetown after deciding to transfer from the Big East program part way into the season. The California native, who UA recruited out of high school, was coming off a Big East Freshman of the Year award but ultimately decided that a move closer to the West Coast was what would be best for the future of his career.
At this point it remains unclear if he will have the opportunity to play the entire season since current NCAA transfer rules require him to sit out until the start of the new year. However, there is still a possibility that the NCAA could pass a waiver for first-time transfers that would award a player like Akinjo a chance to hit the floor this fall.
Miller's plan is to play more guards at the same time once again and Akinjo will be right in the middle of the mix with that group whenever he is able to play. What will give the sophomore a leg up on the incoming group is that he has at least some experience practicing and being around the team.
"The fact that he was able to learn our system and practice with us after Christmas, think about him playing against Nico Mannion and Jemarl Baker every day," Miller said during a video interview with UA play-by-play announcer Brian Jeffries that the program posted online. "There were days when those guys really battled. I loved James in practice because he came at a time when he was able to make Nico and those guys better and pushed him every day in practice.
"So again experienced, a little bit older and I believe that we're getting a point guard who will come into the Pac-12 and really settle in and be a very good player. The other thing I like about James ... is he doesn't have to be the one and only point guard on court. You know, we could play a number of different combinations. I think this coming year we'll play a lot of three-guard lineups, because James also can play off the ball and score. That's something that that I think we're excited to utilize with him as well."
There had been some questions about how much of a negative impact Akinjo had on the Hoyas this season after critical remarks were made by Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim about the sophomore point guard, but Miller mentioned back in the winter that he did not feel that was the case based on his conversations with people familiar with the situation there.
The UA head coach reiterated that stance when speaking about Akinjo this week now that he has had a few months time to spend with the transfer guard.
"As we know the Big East is one of the most competitive and complete college basketball conferences in the country," Miller said. "Personally, I know a lot of coaches in the Big East. When we reached out to check on James, in addition to what we already knew, I think we're getting a guy that's experienced, that brings a toughness, who can play both defense and offense and is just a terrific point guard."
Akinjo will be one of several versatile guards on the Arizona roster in the upcoming season and each of the players who will spend time at the point guard spot are capable of playing off the ball as well. Being able to have Akinjo at the start of the season will only give UA more firepower at the position should he be granted a waiver to play right away.