Full Breakdown of Utah State’s wing transfer Dexter Akanno | Sports

One of the last few additions by head coach Jerrod Calhoun to Utah State’s roster (and likely to its nightly on-court rotation) is Oregon State transfer Dexter Akanno, a fifth-year senior who will be playing for his third school throughout his career.

Akanno began his collegiate tenure at Marquette in 2019, redshirting one season and then appearing in just 12 games (coincidentally rubbing shoulders with former Aggie guard Koby McEwen). He then transferred to Oregon State where he became an immediate rotation staple, appearing in 91 of the Beavers’ 95 games (starting 68 of those) spanning three seasons from 2021-2024 with a per-game minutes average of barely under 25.

A natural reaction to Akanno’s addition to Utah State is to presume he’s a Josh Uduje replacement since the latter left the Aggies and will play for San Jose State next season. Akanno will likely come in and take Uduje’s spot in the rotation — a sixth man who plays near starter-level minutes and may occasionally close a game if he’s playing particularly well that night.

This is a fair assumption, though it overlooks some clear differences in these two players’ styles. Yes, both play the same position — that of a third guard/small forward type — both stand 6-foot-5, are both seniors, and both have relatively similar career scoring averages (9.5 for Uduje, 7.1 for Akanno).

Aside from that handful of fairly superficial similarities, Uduje and Akanno are different players. Uduje is an on-ball scorer who can create his own shots anywhere inside the arc – midrange or at the rim – and hit a few outside shots now and then. Akanno just isn’t that, offense simply isn’t his strength.

Akanno doesn’t possess the largest bag of offensive skills. Most of his drives are straight-line or end with him turning his back to the basket to avoid losing handle on his dribble. That keeps his scoring ceiling somewhat low, but at 10.9 points per game last year, he’s clearly not helpless on offense. Here’s a few of his drives where he put the pressure on his defender and utilized his size and athleticism to pave a path to the basket, either finishing with a bucket or drawing a foul. The first clip actually displays a fairly high degree of athletic prowess as he went from being slightly off-balance when he passed the free throw line extended to comfortably dunking the ball a couple steps later.

What ends up being immediately concerning about Akanno’s offense is made plain in his shooting percentages. In four seasons, comprising 103 appearances and a 645 shot sample size, he owns a career percentage of 37.1 percent, 28.8 percent from three.

The optimist will point out that his percentages have been steadily climbing each year with his 2023-24 season being his best at 39 percent overall and 32.5 percent from three (another optimistic/interesting tidbit is that every year his shooting percentages are higher in conference play, to a notable degree, than in non-conference play). And, being honest, while the sub-40 percent overall percentage will induce a cringe, his 3-point percentage is only slightly below the NCAA average. He’s a viable shooter from distance.

Calhoun’s best course of action for fitting Akanno into the rotation will be to ensure he’s not in a place where he has to carry the offense. There’s no reason to exaggerate Akanno’s shortcoming and act like they’ll be playing 4-on-5 offensively with Akanno in the lineup. He can hit 3-pointers at an average rate and attack the rim with physicality and he draws free throws at a pretty solid rate too. But these need to be in small doses to retain overall offensive efficiency for the team.

Where Akanno will likely make his biggest impact will be in the many little things aside from being a scorer, particularly on the defensive end. With a fairly solid physical frame, weighing a listed 210 pounds (contrasted with the 185 Uduje was at). This gives him a lot more versatility, especially for someone tasked to play small forward and may even play power forward at USU in four-guard lineups. And he’ll do more than just play that role, be a stop-gap when playing small-ball. Akanno can be effective in that role.

A big part of being effective as a small-ball power forward is making sure the team doesn’t lose too much rebounding potential. And while Akanno’s 2.2 career rebounding average isn’t spectacular, even when looking at least year when he tallied 2.9 per game, what’s not showing up in that number is his ability to not be physically overpowered when he’s in the paint during a rebound opportunity. This is something the Aggies struggled with last season when they were playing guard-heavy lineups. Those guards were unable to box out as effectively and there were times that USU couldn’t keep opponents from cleaning the offensive glass.

Insert Akanno into those scenarios and he’s a lot less likely to suffer the same fate. In the following clip, he goes hip-to-hip with a 6-foot-10, 245-pound center, boxed him out and drew a foul to secure possession for Oregon State.

Shifting toward defense a little more and there are things to be excited about. This clip is probably one of the best instances of Akanno showing his hustle to make an impact on the opposing offense multiple times.

That’s the extreme positive side of Akanno’s defense where it’s highlight-worthy defense and even got him one of his five blocks on the season, but underlying this play is his overall very active defensive tendencies. Even when playing off-ball, he’s always making sure to be involved. Sometimes that’s getting ready to play help defense in the key and/or draw a charge. Akanno ranked 424th in the nation in fouls drawn per 40 minutes according to KenPom, and a solid chunk of those were charges that he drew, many against unsuspecting bigs he caught unprepared.

Akanno isn’t likely to be the star of the Aggies this upcoming season, and there’s a very high chance he won’t start many, if any, games. That’s not going to make his potential impact negligible. The best teams in college basketball have players capable of being relied on to fill a niche within the team and do so in a highly effective manner. Akanno can be that player. Calhoun stacked the team with guards and on-ball scorers/passer but now he’s added someone on the wing with strengths in other areas to create a balanced roster. Look for Akanno to make the plays that won’t show up on the stat sheet but which contribute to wins all the same.

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