BY CARLA PENNOLINO
Reggie Miller enjoyed a Hall of Fame basketball career with the Indiana Pacers after altering his shot at a young age because his older sister, Cheryl — also a Hall of Famer — would always block it.
Abe Akanmu of the Queens College men’s basketball team can relate to the star’s beginnings.
“I got into basketball because my older sister used to play and I wanted to do everything just like her,” Akanmu said. “I fell in love with the game and the rest is history.”
The standout sophomore started playing basketball at age five and the experience has shown throughout his hard work, dedication and leadership inside Fitzgerald Gym, QC’s home court.
Akanmu received East Coast Conference All-Rookie honors as well as a QC Outstanding Freshman award last year. The point guard averaged 8.0 points per game and dished out 35 assists in only 13 games played; he missed much of the early and middle portions of the season due to a knee injury. He received East Coast Conference Rookie of the Week honors on November 14, 2011 and later scored a season-high 25 points against St. Thomas Aquinas on February 1.
Last year, explained Akanmu, was an up and down season not only for him, but for the entire squad. After starting off the season strong with a winning record, the team faltered and ended with a 4-22 mark. A torn PCL in his left knee robbed the Staten Island-native of 13 games but he plans on coming back and helping lead the team toward a much better ending this time around.
“The goal is always to win the championship,” said Akanmu. “The key is to take it step by step. This year, we need to focus on getting into the playoffs and then we will take it from there.”
The guard loves the game for its competitive nature, which fuels his drive toward greatness.
“I hate losing, but love the game. It’s what I care about,” he said.
As a junior at Xaverian High School, the political science major knew he wanted to be a QC Knight.
“Head coach Kyrk Peponakis recruited me to be a big part of the team,” said Akanmu. “I like being a leader and always want to be.”
Peponakis recognized Akanmu’s potential in high school and wanted the 5’11” guard to be an integral part of the Knights’ future.
“He is a solid all-around guard who can not only shoot but defend,” said Peponakis. “He knows the game very well and he is a leader on the court.”
Akanmu’s most memorable basketball achievement, in fact, occurred in that same junior year. The Xaverian squad beat three nationally ranked high schools — Christ the King, Bishop Loughlin and Rice — during the 2009-10 season.
“We beat top teams in the nation,” said Akanmu. “That was big for me.”
A similar scenario can play out for Akanmu and the Knights this season as LIU-Post was predicted to repeat as ECC champions in a preseason poll.
In the future, he can’t see himself abandoning his love of the sport, instead he envisions himself as a coach or running a camp or clinic. He cannot let his passion go.
“Basketball teaches you a lot about life,” he explained. “It teaches you to work as a team, work ethic, responsibility, discipline and how to listen.”
When the Knights’ conference season tips off Saturday, December 1 at Mercy College, Akanmu will be sporting a symbolic jersey number.
“I chose number one because I want to be the best,” Akanmu said.