Sooner than he expected, Eso Akunne is on a basketball scholarship at Michigan
Eso Akunne and his father walked into John Beilein’s office two weeks ago unsure what to expect. They knew the meeting with the Michigan men’s basketball coach had to do with whether or not Akunne would be on scholarship this year.
They expected the worst. What they got was a free education for a year.“I couldn’t believe he did it,” Akunne said. “But at the same time, my facial expression wasn’t like ‘Oh, my gosh.’ I was shocked.
“Going into the meeting, I was 100 percent sure that it was going to be, ‘OK, you’re going to get it next year or the year after, after you’ve proved yourself.’”
Instead, Akunne was on scholarship as his first semester at Michigan began earlier this month. The scholarship, which is good for one year, was officially announced last week.
Michigan, though, was always the preferred destination for the hometown kid from Gabriel Richard High School. He had offers from most of the Mid-American Conference, Oakland out of the Summit League and began to receive some interest - but no scholarships - from Kansas and Louisville, among others, by the end of his senior season.
So the 6-foot-3, 220-pound guard who played all five positions at times for Gabriel Richard had a choice. Wait on the other schools, which might not come through with a scholarship offer, or go to Michigan as a preferred walk-on, play in front of his hometown fans and put himself in position to earn a scholarship.
“I didn’t want to just wait, wait, wait, wait,” Akunne said. “And then, at the end, they didn’t end up offering me and then I’d end up at a place I didn’t want to go to because I lost that Michigan opportunity.”
Plus, there’s something else - the chance to continue his hometown legend after averaging 17 points, 10.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.6 blocks in his career. Akunne played consistently for Gabriel Richard. And he’s already had to explain to friends and fans clamoring for tickets that it won’t be the same.
He said Beilein has a role for him this season, but it won’t be playing every minute. Not with Manny Harris and a plethora of guards playing in front of him.
“They think it’s going to be like high school, where I play the entire time,” Akunne said. “I’m like ‘Probably not, because our team is really good and we have everyone coming back.’ People are like ‘We’re going to watch you, get me tickets. Get me tickets.’
“I know I’m going to have a big issue with tickets every home game.”
That, though, is a good problem for Akunne to have, especially now that he’s on scholarship.
ESO AKUNNE HIGHLIGHT TAPE: