Since his first big offer this summer from Texas A&M, Richmond (Calif.) Salesian point guard James Akinjo has seen his stock steadily increase, with recent offers from Nevada, Connecticut and Colorado. Wednesday, though, was different. Akinjo, in the early evening, scored an offer from his hometown school -- California -- and new head coach Wyking Jones.
Jones has seen Akinjo before, several times, in live settings. Akinjo attended last summer's skills camp at Haas Pavilion, and Jones was in attendance when Akinjo dropped 29 points at the MLK Classic this January.
"It means a lot; that's my hometown, and I've been wanting that one for a while," said Akinjo. "I feel like I've been deserving, but it means a lot."
Jones called Akinjo's aunt -- Rachel Jackson -- to extend the offer, and not just because of what Akinjo did on the court this year -- leading the Pride to a 27-5 record and a No. 14 ranking in the state of California.
"He said he wanted to offer based on what I did in the classroom," said Akinjo, who has a 3.9 GPA. "I've been working really hard in the classroom. They love my skill set and my ability to get my teammates involved. I can score when it's needed and everything like that, but I love getting my teammates involved, and they love my toughness."
During Akinjo's 29-point outburst at the MLK Classic, he also dished out 10 assists, so he's a versatile, explosive, tenacious guard. At the NorCal Clash this summer, he swiped a half-court steal and iced the final two free throws to clinch the game for his side. He certainly has a sense of occasion. At 5-foot-11, 170, he's a bit on the smaller side for a point guard, a shade taller than newly-departed freshman Charlie Moore, who is transferring to Kansas to be closer to his ailing father. Though the Bears signed Deschon Winston to play the point late in this cycle, they always planned on taking a point during this cycle.
Akinjo is looking for a place he can play early, which makes the Cal depth chart situation very enticing.
"I'm just looking for the best fit, so I don't care if that's away from home or close to home or anything," Akinjo said. "I just want to come in and play right away. I feel like I'm going to work hard enough to play right away. That's the school I'm looking for. [Cal's depth chart situation] makes me really intrigued. That's a spot, right there for me, but you never know. I'm going to think really hard with me and my family, we're going to discuss it and we're going to make the right choice."
The offer from the Bears holds special weight for Akinjo, who's known current Cal senior -- and Salesian alum -- Jabari Bird since Akinjo was a freshman at Salesian. Additionally, his coach, Bill Mellis, is a Cal alumnus.
"Me and Jabari are real cool, we work out together and talk all the time about Cal," Akinjo said. "Me and Jabari are real cool. He's told me that Cal's a really good school, and he's not too far from home, so you're still able to get your support. It's a real good program, real good coaches."
Akinjo lives with his aunt, and grandmother Evonne Stevenson, and has ever since his mother passed away, giving birth to his younger sister, in 2004.
"It's really big," Akinjo said. "I love my auntie, I love my home. I love my grandma. She's a really strong person, who's helped me stay strong. My grandma's my backbone. Without her, I wouldn't be here today."
Akinjo said that he will visit Cal again, "real soon," now that he has that offer under his belt. He'll likely come out after finals, and again plans to attend the Bears' skills camp this summer.