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Josh Akognon Interview

Thu, 02/26/2009 - 12:18am



[img_assist|nid=4636|title=Josh Akognon|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=450] NBADraft.net: How did you first get into playing basketball?

Josh Akognon: It was when I was in high school in the 9th grade, I was watching Iverson play and even though my brother played football and that was my first love, I wasn’t really into basketball. But seeing Iverson and the things he did got me into it.

NBADraft.net: You began your college career with Washington State, what made you decide to transfer?

Josh Akognon: I’d say the tempo at Washington State, they average about 50 points per game. I just wanted to get out and play a little bit faster than that. Everything else around the program was great but I wanted to go back to the style I played in high school, and get the same notoriety so I decided to go back to that style.

NBADraft.net: Elaborate a little further on the differences between Fullerton State and Washington State both in terms of coaching style and off court?

Josh Akognon: The coaching styles are completely different. The mentalities are different. Washington State was defense, defense, defense. And in some ways it felt like if we never went down on the offensive end it would be ok because we would stop them every time. Here we just try to run them out of the gym and keep their percentages down. We know we’re gonna score so it’s all about just keeping their numbers (percentages) down. We try to score every time and then get them so that by the end they don’t have the energy to defend. When I first got here I was just blown away at how much energy was put on offense.

NBADraft.net: Former Fullerton State point guard Bobby Brown has made it into the NBA. Do you speak with him much? What advice has he given you about making the NBA?

Josh Akognon: He’s given me a lot of advice. I talk to him every week or two, whenever our schedules permit it and he just continues to let me know not to be pressured by anything and go out and show what I’m capable of each time out. I have another good friend with the Spurs Ime Udoka and Hassan Adams and Quincy Douby those guys all give me a lot of feedback. Just to continue to work hard and not worry about anything else. Play hard and everything else will take care of itself.

NBADraft.net: You went through the draft process last year. Was that a good decision, and how did this help you prepare for this season?

Josh Akognon: For me it was a great decision. I just wanted to see where I was at. I ended up working out with the Kings and they called me back to work out with DJ Augustin. That was really good. Talking with Randy Brown, he told me I was the topic of the meeting and a lot of the stuff they were saying they liked what I did. And seeing how the coaches and everybody interacted with me made me realize that I’m not a fan anymore and I’m there for a job and the same thing with going to the Warriors and the multi-team workout. Seeing Kerr and Dunleavy and Mullin and all these guys I grew up idolizing , it can be overwhelming, but they're not there signing autographs and they’re there watching my every move and that should help me out for this summer just being prepared and having no feeling of being star struck. So that really motivated me to work hard and come in this year with a mission, knowing the professional approach that it takes each and every day competing for a job. It’s treatment, practice, extra shots, weights, treatment, go home, film, so I;m really just in that professional mind set and hopefully it will bode well for me.

NBADraft.net: What do you feel you can bring to an NBA team next year?

Josh Akognon: The ability to knock down the open shot. Seeing that I’m such a big scoring option here, I think I can also give energy at the defensive end. I’ve learned the game from Dick Bennett, one of the great defensive coaches and I feel like I know everything when it comes to defensive positioning and understanding the defensive end, so now I think it’s just about the effort and making the plays, keeping the defense honest. So just being a guy that’s ready to learn, ready to work hard.

NBADraft.net: What area of your game do you feel needs the most work?

Josh Akognon: My defense. My defense is a big thing I need to work on, but at the same time for me that comes down to effort and conditioning, something that any player can always improve upon. Here on the college level at times I get put on not the greatest offensive player which allows me to focus my energy on the offensive end, but I know that at the professional level that’s not going to be the case. I never have to pick up a guy at half court and with the way we play in some ways conditioning just won’t permit that. I know defense takes hard work and you have to take pride in it. Everything as far as the offensive end I feel like I can pick up quick.

NBADraft.net: Who has been the toughest opponent you have faced in your college career?

Josh Akognon: Brandon Roy was really tough. Arron Afflalo. Jordan Farmar and Nate Robinson were all really tough.
All of those guys. And then if you go with Fiba over in Japan I got to go against Ginobili for a lot of the second quarter I got to go against him. Those guys have the craziest first steps and strength that you’ve ever seen. And at the same time your up for a challenge and as a competitor you love to see that. All those guys that are now in the NBA that challenged me and brought my level of play up.

NBADraft.net: All those guys you mentioned are West Coast guys, so do you think West Coast players get a bad rap, that they’re soft and stuff?

Josh Akognon: Oh yeah. I think you hear a lot of that stuff with East Coast being tough and West Coast being soft but if you look at players lately like Arron Afflalo being such a tough defender and all around player and there are plenty of examples. And Brandon being all everything. I talked to him this past summer at the Paul Pierce camp, and he said just how good it feels to prove all the critics wrong. And hopefully all the West Coast guys can keep proving them wrong.

NBADraft.net: What player in the NBA do you look up to or try to pattern your game after?

Josh Akognon: From a scoring standpoint it’s the same guy who got me interested in basketball, Iverson. Being the fact that we’re both small and that we’re both determined that nobody can stop us. I look at a lot of little things from guys like things that Kobe does. I try to take a little bit from everybody like Eddie House. Rajon Rondo, and how much he’s improved his game. But the biggest two would probably be Iverson and Eddie House.

NBADraft.net: Who do you consider the quickest point guard in the country?

Josh Akognon: The quickest point guard in the country….. I would have to say…. (10 second pause) ... that’s a tough one..

NBADraft.net: You want to include yourself don’t you?

Josh Akognon: (Laughs…)

NBADraft.net: Alright yourself included, who’s the quickest?

Josh Akognon: (Laughs) Hey I’m up there... But I’m going to have to give that one to Collison.

NBADraft.net: Who has been your biggest role model?

Josh Akognon: My dad. Yeah. My Dad and Mom. They’ve always been there with me. Through thick and thin. Through the good and the bad, I’ll never forget how my Dad handled things. My Dad and my Mom those are the people I look up to.

NBADraft.net: You mentioned your older brother played football. Did he toughen you up growing up?

Josh Akognon: Oh yeah, I could never beat him one on one. We would always play football and then get tired and go play basketball. We would always play one on one, and he would always get me crying and going home, but as the years went by I started getting to the point where I would destroy him every time. I think that was an important step to where I am now.

NBADraft.net: How many years older is your brother and did he play any college ball?

Josh Akognon: He’s four years older than me and he played high school football at Sacramento High and he was going to play football at Sacramento State but he decided to focus on academics. He ran the 40 in 4.2. So I don’t know why he stopped but he just lost the love for it.

NBADraft.net: Playing in a smaller conference like the Big West, are you at a disadvantage in receiving recognition for the draft?

Josh Akognon: I think so. But at the same time I’m still getting recognition for the draft. Because of the fact that Bobby Brown got us a lot of recognition from the draft. Coming from the Big West and being able to play at that level opened up the door for future guys to do the same thing. So even though you might know that you’re not getting the recognition you deserve, it’s something that just makes you work harder. It also makes you realize that you need to turn heads in workouts and I feel like I did that last year going up against guys like Chris Douglas Roberts, DJ Augustin, Ronald Steele and JR Giddens and it made more people come out to my games this year.

NBADraft.net: As you mentioned, you played for Nigeria in the 2006 World Championships. Talk a little bit about that. What was that like? and will you represent Nigeria in future competitions?

Josh Akognon: A lot of people have contacted me about that because they know that the summer is going to be busy with travel and the draft situation. So I know that it’s going to be tough to get out there again. Coach has contacted my Dad and made it clear that they would like to get me out again and get me prepared for the Olympics over the next 3 years. And Out there it was absolutely incredible. Staying in the same hotel and eating dinner with guys. I;m sitting right next to Dirk Nowitzki, and Ginobili and walking in the hallways and in the elevators with Chris Paul and everybody. And keep in mind I had never met anybody close to these guys before going there so it was like a whirlwind seeing all these guys at one hotel. And then my roommate was Ime (Udoku), who was playing for Portland at that time. And then my coach (Sam) got a job with the Bobcats so I’m playing for a head coach in the NBA. So you can imagine what kind of whirlwind it was for me and I think it was that summer that changed my basketball career. Being around all these great players and being a part of it, it made me get serious about it.

NBADraft.net: So what is the story with your parents, are both from Nigeria or your grandparents?

Josh Akognon: My Dad is from Nigeria and my Mom is from Marin City. So I’m an African American. And my dad is a pastor in Marin City and my mom does day care and is a gospel singer so there’s a strong church and religious influence.

NBADraft.net: The Kansas City Cheifs had a fullback in the late 80’s - early 90s named Christian "the Nigerian Nightmare" Okoye. His last name is similar to yours Akognon (Ah-koy-yan). Do you remember him?

Josh Akognon: I do remember him. Yeah he was the one with the big shoulder pads. It’s funny when people hear that I’m Nigerian and hear my name they always ask me if I’m related to him. I’m like hey man, it’s A-koy-AN! I always loved football growing up like I said and I knew all the football players and Okoye was one of the top guys. And my dad used to collect a lot of cards and he had a lot of his (Okoye's) cards and would always let us know our heritage making sure we knew everyone that came from Nigeria.

The two guys I know that are Nigerian from NCAA recently are my boy Chamberlain Oguchi who’s at Illinois State and Hassan Adams.

NBADraft.net: A number of players have gone to Europe to hone their skills before making it in the NBA, is this something that you would consider if you don't make a team leading up to next NBA season?

Josh Akognon: Yes of course. You’ve got to make a living and you don’t want to close off any avenues. But at the same time I’m very focused on making it in the NBA. I’m very religious and I feel that god will put me in the position that I have worked really hard to get to. So I will do what I have to but I have the utmost confidence that I will turn a lot of heads this summer.

NBADraft.net: Thanks a lot for the interview Josh and best of luck to you and in your future in basketball!

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