Josh Akognon could very well be the next Bobby Brown.
With the graduation of the player affectionately known as "L.B" to Titan faithful, fans have turned to Akognon to take Brown's place. That's a lot of pressure, considering Brown was Cal State Fullerton's all-time leading scorer. Akognon knows this, but he has his own plans. Ultimately, Akognon recognizes that the only pressure he answers to is his own.
Twenty one-year-old Akognon came to CSUF from Washington State. Despite the fact that it was a Pac-10 school, the Cougars moved too slowly for Akognon, who was used to playing at a faster pace.
"I was the lead scorer there and I averaged 10 [points per game]," The 5-foot-11 guard said. "A lot of people back home told me that I was getting kind of boring to watch and coming from your family, that kind of hurts."
With that, Akognon started searching for other schools. Though he had a few options in the Midwest, Akognon knew that he wanted something closer to home.
"Washington took two planes to see me," Akognon said of his visits from family, who reside in the Bay Area.
So Akognon scoured Southern California. St. Mary's, San Diego State and CSUF were Akognon's top choices. Finally, he whittled the schools down to two - with a last minute choice being on the East Coast.
"The last school I was looking at was Miami; Miami and here." Akognon said. "Miami had a couple scholarship issues and I didn't feel like waiting it out and [it was] still a bit far … I didn't want to take a plane ride to go home every time I wanted to."
With a nudge from a friend, Akognon finally decided on Fullerton. That friend was New Jersey Nets player, Hassan Adams.
"See, Josh's parents are from Nigeria, and Hassan's father is from Nigeria," CSUF basketball Assistant Coach Marlon Morton explained. "Hassan was the star at Arizona State … they played against each other and [with] the Nigerian connection, they just hit it off."
Morton, who is Adams' godfather, helped raised Adams since he was 6. It was through Adams that Akognon would learn about Morton and the CSUF system.
"I was told there were pretty good coaches here," Akognon said. "And [Adams] said I'd work with Marlon … it was pretty much 98 percent of the reason why I came here, between him and Marlon."
The other 2 percent was from the influence of Brown.
"Just seeing him … seeing the way he handled the school and the notoriety that he got, that pretty much pushed me to make the decision," Akognon said
At first, Akognon was weary about moving from the Pac-10 to the Big West because of the stigma that came with the conference. Eventually, he took it as a plus.
"Here, it's a low-key underdog type of conference," Akognon said. "In some ways I feel I needed that."
Because of NCAA eligibility rules, Akognon had to red shirt his first season at CSUF. By then, Akognon was ready for a break. The previous summer, he represented Nigeria in the World Basketball Championship. Now that he had some time off, Akognon could rest.
"Last year was a great year to sit down," Akognon said. "Learn the system too."
During his red shirt year as a Titan, Akognon got to know CSUF basketball. He also practiced with the team, as the player Brown and senior guard Ray Reed had to guard on the court.
"He'd been playing so much, last year was his year to really have fun and practice," Morton said. "Shoot the ball as many times as he wanted … that's what he did. That was his break in practice."
CSUF basketball Manager Eric Glass said that he had the green light to do what he wanted in practice.
"[There was] a lot of trouble the guys had having to guard him, because he's such a prolific shooter," Glass said.
"To bust everyone's butt in practice … that was his role," Morton said.
But the most helpful thing about red shirting last year for Akognon would be the opportunity to observe teammate Brown and the rest of the Titan squad. Now that Akognon is eligible to play, he hopes to cultivate his own image in the Fullerton eye.
"I had dreams before I came to Fullerton," Akognon said. "…Bobby was more of a reality check."
Working with Brown, Akognon was able to identify the skills he needed to improve and better himself for the team. As for being the next Brown, Akognon sees this idea in a different light.
"I don't think anyone can fill his shoes," Akognon said. "He left a legacy here that can't be touched. For me, I'm just trying to do the best I can do for this team. Hopefully in the end, both our names are separate."
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