Aug. 19, 2011
The University of Michigan men's basketball team, along with all other Division I programs, is limited to 13 scholarships per season, but when guard Eso Akunne did not receive a scholarship offer out of high school, he did not give up.
Instead, head coach John Beilein and his staff recruited the Ann Arbor native to join the team as a preferred walk-on, offering him a spot on the U-M roster without the perks of free school. Akunne graciously accepted the offer.
After a freshman season with limited playing time, Akunne appeared in about half the games for the Wolverines as a sophomore last season (16), shooting 43 percent from the field.
In an exclusive one-on-one interview, MGoBlue.com sat down with Akunne to discuss everything from last season's NCAA Tournament bid to his personal goals for this upcoming season.
On walking on to the Michigan basketball team ... "I think when you play at a high level like this, you have to be self-motivated; you have to have a lot of confidence in yourself no matter what your status is. You don't need to have people tell you you're good, you just have to continue to work hard and believe in yourself."
On playing time last season ... "Practicing and playing against people who take this game really seriously and play at a high level of course will raise your game. It helps motivate anyone to keep working hard when you play against good competition."
On last season's NCAA Tournament bid ... "It was fun, because when I was coming in out of high school the team made the tournament and beat Clemson and then played a really good game against Oklahoma, and it was really exciting to watch. Then we had the expectations to win the next year and we didn't do so well. So knowing how hard it is to work every year to get to the NCAA Tournament and do well, it was fun to be a part of it."
On confidence provided by NCAA Tournament bid for next season ... "I think everyone has a certain confidence to themselves. I'm sure the people who had made it two years before already had that, but it gives an extra confidence and extra belief in yourself when you know you can make it and it spurs you to push forward and do even better next year."
On offseason preparations for next season ... "I've done a lot of conditioning, trying to get my weight as low as possible, agility work, ball-handling, shooting, all the same stuff a lot of people do."
On offseason workouts in various locations with Crisler Arena renovations ... "It's been tough. The average day we have to go get our clothes from the baseball facility, then drive over to the wrestling facility and come back. And then later on in the day you have to go back to the baseball facility and then walk over to the IM building and come back. It's not what we're accustomed to, but we all know that eventually we'll get our practice facility and we'll be able to forget about the stuff we have to do now."
On what makes this team special ... "We've stayed hungry. The last part of the season when we made our jump, we had so much togetherness and a unity and I think if we remember what got us to that level and we don't have to have those setbacks that we had last year -- if we can start off with that hunger -- we'll do really well."
On role for the upcoming season ... "Whatever the coaches tell me to do, I'll do. I just try my best to get in the lineup and help any way I can. And if I'm not in it, I just help in practice and just try to be a good teammate."
On personal goals for next season ... "I don't really want to say what they are, I just want to make sure we're all about the team. Once we reach our team goals, then you can look towards your personal goals. Winning the Big Ten and getting to the Final Four, that's what's more important."
2011 Summer Basketball Q&A Series: Catching Up with the Wolverines
Catching Up with Guard Corey Person (8/12/2011)
Catching Up with Forward Blake McLimans (8/5/2011)
Catching Up with Guard Josh Bartelstein (7/29/2011)
Catching Up with Forward Evan Smotrycz (7/22/2011)
Catching Up with Captain Stu Douglass (7/15/2011)
Catching Up with Guard Matt Vogrich (7/8/2011)
Catching Up with Forward Colton Christian (7/1/2011)
Catching Up with Forward Jon Horford (6/24/2011)
Catching Up with Forward Jordan Morgan (6/17/2011)
Catching Up with Captain Zack Novak (6/10/2011)
Catching Up with Guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (6/3/2011)
Contact: Tom Wywrot, Whitney Dixon (734) 763-4423