ATLANTA (Nov. 29) – For Georgia Tech point guard Tony Akins, the Price is always right.
Akins is referring to Georgia Tech assistant coach Mark Price, one of the great point guards in Georgia Tech and NBA history.
“As a point guard, it’s incredible to be able to work with a great NBA point guard like Mark Price,” said Akins. “When he says something, you just know that he knows what he’s talking about. If he says something, you just listen and take it to heart because he’s done it all.”
The Yellow Jackets (3-1) host Michigan (3-0) in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge Wednesday at 7 p.m. in a nationally televised game on ESPN. The contest will be the first college basketball game in Atlanta’s brand new Philips Arena.
Akins, who was born in Detroit and frequently visited relatives there while growing up, considered Michigan before signing with Georgia Tech.
“I only lived there about two years, but all of my dad’s family is there, so I visited every year,” said the lefthander from the Atlanta suburb of Lilburn. “I like it up there, but it’s a little too cold.”
Akins got a strong dose of cold weather on Tech’s trip to the Great Alaska Shootout, but his play was anything but chilly as he helped the Yellow Jackets reach the championship game.
He averaged 11.0 points and 6.3 assists while committing only eight turnovers in the three contests, including victories over Grambling State and Washington.
“Tony played very well in Alaska, and I was happy to see that,” said Tech head coach Bobby Cremins. “He only scored six points against Washington, but that was one of the best games of his career as far as running the team and being a point guard.”
For the season, Akins is Tech’s third-leading scorer with 12.3 points per game. More importantly, he is handing out 6.8 assists per game with an assist-turnover ratio of 2.7.
Akins gives a lot of the credit to Price for helping him improve.
“He’s taught me patience, and that’s helped me cut down on my turnovers,” explained Akins, the former Georgia Mr. Basketball at Berkmar High School. “I’m more patient, rather than trying to force things.
“Last season I was really worried about my own game. I’ve realized that in order for me to be a good point guard, my team has to do well. When we’re winning, it really doesn’t bother me if I don’t shoot at all.”
Another emphasis for Akins has been on defense.
“I thought about some of the really good point guards that we played against last year, like Ed Cota and William Avery, and they all pick up the ball and play really tough defense,” said Akins.
“I feel like I if I can pick up the ball and play really good defense, that will get the team going and give us the intensity that we need. If I pick up the ball-handler further up the court, I think I get more into the game.”
Of course, Price can teach Akins a thing or too about shooting.
“We’ve worked on my shot a lot,” said Akins, who leads Tech with 11 treys on 24 attempts (45.8 percent). “Last year I was shooting with my elbow out, so he tells me to keep my elbow in and make sure I go straight up and down. He told me I was floating a lot and that was causing me to be inconsistent. And he reminds me to follow through.”
When asked if he can beat Price one-on-one, Akins laughs and says, “Oh, yeah . . . on a good day.”