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IMG's Barto on Akol to OSU

IMG's Barto on Akol to OSU 

August 20, 2008

By: Reed Coldiron

After coming to the United States just about three years ago, Sudan native Teeng Akol has been a myriad of places en route to finally landing in Stillwater. Arriving initially in New York at Our Savior High School, Akol burst onto the scene by performing well on both the high school and AAU circuits as a 2007 prospect.

Akol is looking to bring a solid inside presence to the OSU frontcourt.
After suffering through a rash of minor injuries and also needing to improve his academic standing, Akol reclassified as a 2008 prospect and transferred to IMG where Head Coach Dan Barto was able to help him get back on track both on the court and also off the court academically where once things settled down the 6-foot-11, 230-pounder became a highly coveted recruit once again.

A member of the Dinka tribe from his native land, Akol's detailed story is one that will get spelled out over time but as Coach Barto explained, the end game of Akol being at OSU was a result of simple loyalty to kid that hasn't seen much of it in his life.

"I think the loyalty for Travis having recruited him in the past and then wanting him again," he said. "I think the fact that Travis had reunited with him was kind of like the stars aligning. I really think that got [Oklahoma State] the first visit and then I think from there that Travis just did his job on the recruiting side of it, you know, that's one of his greatest strengths. I don't think he's going to lose too many guys that he gets on campus because I know how genuine he is and I know that obviously, especially on the guards, it will be interesting to see what happens with the bigs, but his ability to really develop guards and player development. You combine that with a nice facility, a nice campus, and a coach that really wants to prove [himself] to the world, that is a train that a lot of people would jump on."

As has been documented, Akol originally committed to South Florida earlier in the recruiting process but was denied admission as a result of complications stemming from English not being Akol's first language. Ultimately the technicality forced Akol to look elsewhere and Barto's experience led him to help his prospect find a school looking for a late addition.

"We've placed 42 division one kids here in the last five years and I know that people are always looking for guys in June and July and that you don't want to send a kid like Teeng into a situation where he's not going to play right away. He's made so much development over eight months, to sit on the bench and say he's going to progress by playing behind so and so is just so mentally frustrating for the kid. So basically we looked for situations that were like that and obviously figured out that Travis Ford was one of the people that had switched jobs so he would have some openings and that tied back to New York. They had recruited Teeng at UMass when Teeng was still living in New York, so they had initially wanted him to go UMass back in the day and so there were some ties up there," he detailed.

Having coached him most recently, we figured nobody would know better than Barto how to characterize Akol's on court ability heading into the college game and he described for us just about everything we needed to know.

"We played mainly prep schools from around the country and junior colleges from here in Florida. Teeng started at the four for us, he was right at around 17 [points] and 8 [rebounds]," he started. "He didn't have any problems scoring, he's a tremendous scorer around the basket. Where we worked with him all year is not over dribbling in the post, you know, just immediate jump hooks. His turnaround is one of the better turnarounds that I've seen since Michael Beasley was here as far as his ability to just catch and turn. One of the habits that we tried to break was using two dribbles when you only need one in the post or just going right up over top of the guy because he's 6-8 and you're 6-11 and longer than him. Obviously, there's his ability to run the floor offensively and beat people to spots and he's really good when the guard drives at shaping up for his little 8 to 15 foot jump shot and he's obviously very good at the screen and roll."

Barto also noted that, much like any prospect fresh out of high school, there are definitely some areas of his game that need improvement.

"He is little behind strength wise and then also defensively which I say for this reason, at Our Savior they only played zone, and in AAU they don't play any defense so he's only had about six or seven months of really having to play defense. One thing I will say about Teeng is that he knows how to perform when the lights are on, meaning when coaches were in the stands or we played a high profile team and he knew he was going to play the majority of the minutes, he had some very, very big games. He hunts the ball off the rim extremely well and one of the other things he does well is he blocks shots in transition. He gets back, he challenges people, not every possession, I'm not going to give him that much credit but if he gets a little ladder under him he really likes to challenge people so he got some people and some people got him this year," he chuckled.

In the end it appears that Akol being at Oklahoma State will be mutually beneficial as he fills a team need in 2008 and that being in Stillwater will help Akol develop a player in the areas where he needs it the most which again appear to be on the defensive side of the ball and just learning to develop some physicality.

"Really just team concept defense, without a doubt, which you're going to get anywhere and really my biggest thing for him offensively is just keeping it simple. He's very, very skilled and his footwork is as advanced as any pro but using his body in live competition is a little bit of a different story," he finished. 

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