Times Sports Editor
Countless hours of hard work in basketball gymnasiums around the country along with innumerable time spent working in the weight room has paid off for 2009 Northview High School graduate, Austin Akers.
On April 13, Akers signed his Division I letter-of-intent to join the Eastern Illinois Panthers following a decorated two-year stint at Olney Central Junior College. Akers signed on the first day of the spring signing period.
Akers capped his sophomore year with the Blue Knights of Olney Central by earning first-team NJCAA All-Region 24 honors and first team All-Great Rivers Athletic Conference honors at OCC. He led the Blue Knights to an 18-13 record and was the team's leading scorer at 13.5 ppg. and ranked 53rd in the nation with 4.7 assists per game. Akers, a 6'2, 195 lbs. guard added 3.9 rebounds and 1.1 steals per contest, and was fourth in voting for the conference player of the year.
"Austin has the proven ability to create offense for himself and his teammates. He can shoot the ball with range and make plays for himself and others with his ball handling skills," EIU head coach Mike Miller said. "We feel that he not only fills a need as a guard in our program but also brings leadership, character and a strong work ethic."
Akers had also gotten interest from the University of Evansville, the University of Chicago, Texas Christian Uninversity, Cal State-Northridge and several other mid-major schools.
Akers was thrilled to sign with the Panthers and with the opportunity to play at the next level collegiately.
"I really like the coaching staff at Eastern and it was also the closest school to home," Akers said. "It's also a great campus and (the program) has a bright basketball future!"
The Brazil native also was quick to credit plenty of people who were there to help him to reach his goal of playing Division I basketball.
"It's always been a life long dream (to play D-I basketball), but it wouldn't be possible without my family, Jack Johnson, coach (Mitch) Lancaster, coach (Scott) Buell, coach (Ernie) Maesch in high school and coach Mike Burris in college as well as my AAU coaches Bobby Moore and Chuck Bahr."
Akers' high school varsity basketball career began on a Nov. 25 evening back in 2006 with a 60-40 win over Martinsville. His stat line included a 12-point night on 4-of-6 shooting from the field and he hit 3-of-4 free throws in the Knights' win.
Several years later, Akers ended his Northview career as one of the best the program has produced as he tallied 892 career points and averaged 13.5 ppg. over three seasons. One of the top all-around players the program has produced, Akers averaged 3.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 3.5 rebounds per game over 66 contests. He also missed just one game over three years.
As a senior, Akers earned honorable mention All-State honors.
He continued his success at Olney Central, where he made 76 3-pointers in his career at OCC, starting all 62 games of his junior college career. As a freshman, he was a second team All-GRAC selection ranking second on the team with 11.5 points per game while adding 3.4 assists and 2.4 rebounds.
"Junior college was a great stepping stone," Akers said. "It has great competition and it gives you time to focus on sports and your education without a lot of distractions. My main goal at the next level is to make the NCAA tourney and try to make a run when we get there, that's my ultimate goal."
Eastern Illinois competes in the Ohio Valley Conference and is coming off a disappointing 9-20 season, but graduates just three seniors from the squad and returns three starters.