Originally created 12/01/99

Former NBA guard key to Tech's success



ATLANTA - To get better, Tony Akins only had to do less.

The Georgia Tech point guard has finally learned the subtle, yet successful approach to basketball. And it was simple: Don't try to do too much.

First-year Yellow Jackets assistant Mark Price has only had two months to work with the sophomore, but his influence is why Georgia Tech is off to a 3-1 start entering tonight's ACC-Big Ten Challenge against Michigan (7 p.m., ESPN).

The Jackets get the first game of the second night in the made-for-TV confrontation. Clemson, which is off to a 2-3 start, visits Penn State tonight at 8 (Comcast Sports).

"As a point guard, it's incredible to be able to work with a great NBA point guard like Mark Price," Akins said. "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."

After averaging 11.3 points and 4.8 assists as a freshman, Akins now concerns himself more with running the offense, even if it comes at the expense of his own statistics.

"Tony played very well in Alaska," Tech coach Bobby Cremins said. "I was happy to see that. 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."

A year ago, Akins hit just 31.6 percent of his shots from the floor. More important, his ratio of assists to turnovers was practically even, 148-138.

This season, Akins is being more selective with his shots, hitting 40.5 percent from the field, and he has nearly three times as many assists as turnovers, 27-10.

"(Price) has taught me patience, and that's helped me cut down on my turnovers," Akins said. "I'm more patient, rather than trying to force things.

"Last season, I was really worried about my 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."

Akins will have his hands full against Michigan's talented freshman backcourt of Jamal Crawford and Kevin Gaines. Along with freshman forward LaVeil Blanchard, sophomore forward Leon Jones and junior center Josh Asselin, the Wolverines have one of the youngest starting lineups in the nation.

"We do a few things a little better every week," Michigan coach Brian Ellerbe said. "I think guys are still grasping what they should and shouldn't do. Everything is a learning process. We have to take games like they are practices sometimes."

The Jackets, on the other hand, have a starting lineup that's loaded with experience. Senior swing man Jason Floyd has played in 94 games -- 39 as a starter -- while junior center Alvin Jones has been a starter since he stepped on campus.

Senior forward Jason Collier started last year after becoming eligible following a transfer from Indiana, and Akins also has started every game since his freshman season.

Tech is coming off a second-place finish at the Great Alaska Shootout. The Jackets lost 84-70 to 11th-ranked Kansas in the championship game.

"We found out a lot about ourselves in Alaska," Cremins said. "We did some good things. We played very well against Washington and hung in there against a very good Kansas team.

"Tony Akins has done a great job running the show."

Not only is Akins making it possible for his teammates to score, he's become the team's best threat from 3-point range. In fact, his shooting percentage behind the arc is better, 45.8 to 40.5, than it is from inside the 3-point line.

"We've worked on my shot a lot," Akins said. "Last year, I was shooting with my elbow out, so (Price) 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."

Tickets for the first college game inside the new Philips Arena are available at the gate.