After years of bench warming, GW big man may be ready to heat up the floor

RICHMOND – Dokun Akingbade’s biggest play Wednesday night against Richmond landed him plastered under the basket at Robins Center.

GW was nursing a two-point lead with 1:32 left in the game and Ryan Butler, a Spider forward with seven points, came barreling down the lane looking to knot the game with a layup. Akingbade knew he couldn’t block the shot, he said, so he stayed planted and drew the offensive foul from Butler, giving GW the possession and proving key in the 63-58 win.

Karl Hobbs, GW’s head coach, said Akingbade’s foresight was the vital play in the scrappy victory, but until recently, Akingbade had been a huge question mark for the Colonials. The uncertainty surrounding Akingbade is not because of lack of talent but due largely to his dearth of playing time. Akingbade never started a game before this year and sat out as a red-shirt during GW’s run last year.

Now, the one-time non-scholarship walk-on player seems to be emerging as a more certain inside threat on a GW team that has been frantically searching for its identity.

The 6-foot-9 forward had his second double-double in as many games and his third of the season here Wednesday night, with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Akingbade turned the ball over only once in 22 minutes of play and hit baseline jump shots with ease. He connected on a pair of free throws and grabbed four offensive rebounds.

“In the second half, I thought he played magnificent,” said Hobbs of Akingbade’s 10 points after halftime. “I challenged him at halftime and said ‘big fella, you really gotta step up.'”

Akingbade is quiet, a thrashing contrast to his newfound on-court persona. When senior Carl Elliott was on the ground after taking a hit, Akingbade rushed over to help the guard up and hugged him when he got to his feet. He throws his body around in the lane and throws down dunks with authority, a move championed by GW’s last big man, Pops Mensah-Bonsu.

“He’s good,” Richmond head coach Chris Mooney said of Akingbade. “He made those baseline jump shots. I was impressed.”

Akingbade’s jump shot, which was a large part in his 5-for-8 outing from the floor, could be largely attributed to five years with GW’s strong coaching staff, Mooney said, but Akingbade said his sweet touch has always been there.

“I always felt comfortable shooting the jump shot,” Akingbade said. “I always had it in my repertoire but I didn’t have the chance to show it off.”

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