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Former five-star recruit Emmanuel Akot will transfer from Arizona men's basketball

Madeleine Viceconte | The Daily Wildcat Guard Emmanuel Akot (24) drives past a Baylor player during the game on Saturday, Dec. 15 at McKale Center.

Arizona men’s basketball will be without forward Emmanuel Akot for the remainder of the season as the sophomore will transfer from the program.

Akot's departure was first reported by Evan Daniels of 247Sports and confirmed by Sean Miller during this week's press conference. According to Sean Miller, Akot informed the coaching staff on Sunday after the team returned home from its road sweep of Stanford and Cal.

Akot will leave the basketball team immediately but will finish the semester of academics at Arizona, meaning he will have to sit out the 2019-2020 season before finishing his last two years of eligibility at another school.

Through 17 games with the Wildcats this season, Akot struggled to produce on the court, despite starting the last 11 games. The sophomore averaged nearly 20 minutes per game, yet was hardly a factor on offense, contributing just 3.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. His career high was seven points, a clip that he hit five times during two seasons at UA.

Head coach Sean Miller often described Akot as one of the team’s best defenders and gave Akot a starting role after UA’s loss to Auburn in Maui. 

“[Akot] starting the game, it gives us a different look. We have another ball handler on the court. We have almost another wing player to defend. So we’re a little bit quicker, a little bit more fluid in terms of multiple ball handlers,” Miller said in early December. 

Arizona freshman Emmanuel Akot, right, interviews sophomore Rawle Alkins, left, in the Arizona locker room in Boise, Idaho.

The 6-foot-7 forward was a part of Miller’s best recruiting classes at Arizona and entered the program as a five-star recruit from Wasatch Academy. Akot originally was set to be a part of the 2018 recruiting class but decided to reclassify in May of 2017 to be able to join the Wildcats' program for the ‘17-’18 season. 

Next man up

Now, the Wildcats will turn to grad transfer Ryan Luther and sophomore Ira Lee for extended minutes. Luther began the season as the team’s starting power forward before being leapfrogged by Akot. 

Luther injured his hand back in the Maui Invitational in late-November but has picked up his play since the conference schedule started, averaging 6.5 points over the last four games, including 10 points in last week’s road win at Stanford. 

Forward Ira Lee (11) jumps to score a basket during the game against Colorado on Thursday, Jan. 3 at McKale Center. Arizona won the game 64-56. 

“The one difference between Emmanuel and Ryan is Ryan is one of our team’s best overall shooters,” Miller also said in December. “And so when he doesn’t start and comes into the game, he gives us a different look.”

Sophomore Ira Lee will also likely see his role increase. The 6-foot-7, 235-pound forward had perhaps his best weekend as a Wildcat in the Bay Area. Lee scored a career-high 12 points in 17 minutes against Stanford and then had a ferocious dunk three days later against Cal. 

Lee is averaging 5.1 rebounds and 3.8 rebounds per game this year. 

While Akot had not been one of Arizona’s best players this season, the transfer still leaves Miller and company with a depleted front court entering an important stretch of conference play.

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