It’s always an excellent get when a college program can find a player that is either athletic or fundamentally skilled.
However, when an individual can sign a player that holds both of those qualities in spades, the result is, more often than not, a slam dunk.
True to form, Wheelersburg’s Makayla Akers is considered to be that kind of find for John Mills and his Alice Lloyd College Lady Eagles’ basketball program. The 5-11 senior post made her signing with the unit official on Wednesday afternoon in a ceremony that included the very support system that allowed the multi-dimensional athlete to get to this point.
“I’m excited about going to Alice Lloyd,” Akers said. “It’s just something that was meant to be, and that’s what it ended up being.”
Akers’ signing certainly has not only Mills, but her former coach, Dusty Spradlin, excited about the possibilities that could very well be present for the young and talented hand.
“We’re really excited about what Makayla brings to the table,” Mills said. “She brings an excellent combination of pure athleticism to go along with a great set of skills. As a coach, anytime that you get one or the other, you have to develop the other part of it. However, with Makayla, she’s athletic, she brings length to the table, and she’s got the skill already. She’s what I would call a blue-chip recruit.”
“It’s great for Makayla to be able to continue her basketball career at the collegiate level,” Spradlin said. “It’s also bittersweet because we have to say goodbye to her. She was our rim protector and allowed us to obtain a lot of successes as a unit with the skills and work ethic that she brought to the table. However, it’s an exciting new chapter in her life, and it’s exciting to see her fulfill a goal. I know that she’s ready for the challenges that are ahead. She’s mature and she’s ready to move on to the next level.”
The skills that Akers brings to the table are evident not only in her overall play, but in the amount of success that the senior helped Wheelersburg obtain as a program.
During her senior campaign, the length that Akers provided made the senior a problem to deal with in the low post, as her 8.5 points, seven rebounds, 1.4 steals, and the astronomical line of 4.1 blocks per affair suggest.
“We really started seeing a difference in her game last summer,” Spradlin said. “When we went away for team camp, she just developed a different mentality as far as wanting to be one of the ones to help us transition from losing Sydney Holden. She wanted to be a leader and one of the figures that we looked to if we needed an extra boost. She had a really good year and a really good career.”
“Playing at Wheelersburg was something special to me,” Akers said. “I’ve played on several different types of teams, and playing here at Wheelersburg, with the atmosphere, the community, and my teammates — who were beyond supportive — was just amazing in and of itself.”
Her improvement, along with the play of Kallie Coleman, Abbie Kallner, Ellie Ruby, and the additional hands around the talented quartet, allowed the Lady Pirates to put together a 21-3 record in 2016-17 despite having to replace an All-SOC and All-District performer in Holden, who departed for Rio Grande following her graduation from Wheelersburg.
For her career, Akers helped Wheelersburg take home 81 percent of their affairs (76-18) during her time in a Lady Pirates’ uniform. That percentage increases to 85 percent (63-11) with the 5-11 big in the starting five, where Akers remained as a fixture over the final three years of her varsity career.
“People had said that it was going to be difficult for us to duplicate our (20-5 season and district final appearance from the year prior) with the loss of Sydney,” Spradlin said. “It was, but our group was excited about what we had the chance to do. Makayla, along with the additional seniors, were a big part in us going 20-2 in the regular season. We’re not doing that without the great senior leaders that we had, and Makayla was one of them.”
Mills noticed those leadership qualities in the games that he saw Akers in action.
“Makayla’s very confident in herself, but she understands how to be a team player,” Mills said. “Sometimes, you’ll call on those types of players to shoulder a little bit more of the burden because they can. Her personality and work ethic are a great fit for what we need.”
At Alice Lloyd, Akers joins a rotation down low that also includes fellow Tri-State area bigs in Bailee Brainard (East Carter) and McKenna Akers (Boyd County). In that trio, it’s a combination that wins, as evidenced by the 73-19 overall record that each player combined to produce with their respective squads over the 2016-17 campaign.
“From the sounds of it, we’re going to be pretty dangerous next year,” Akers said. “I can’t wait to see what the season has in store.”
Akers isn’t just about basketball, though. She’s going to use the roundball to help pave the way for a career in Pre-Physical Therapy while at Alice Lloyd. Following her time there, she plans to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Kentucky.
For now, however, the 5-11 senior plans to bask in the moment of an accomplishment that she never thought would come.
“It’s crazy to think about,” Akers said. “I was thinking about growing up and seeing people from school that would do stuff like this one day this past week. Back then, I thought that (signing with a school) was too far away; that I’d never be in that position or reach that. It’s a dream come true, in all honesty.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7