By Joe Henricksen
Akron and coach Keith Dambrot secured a commitment today from one of the state's bigger sleeper prospects -- Deji Ibitayo of Rich Central. The 6-3 Ibitayo is as athletic as any player in the Class of 2011 and has skyrocketed up the Hoops Report's player rankings this spring and summer.
Ibitayo, who took two trips to Akron with his family, felt a comfort level with the players in the program and the coaching staff.
"I felt real comfortable with the players there," says Ibitayo. "Plus, the coaching staff couldn't have been any better to me and my family."
The Zips landed a player with plenty of promise and big-time potential. Ibitayo is long, physically put together and is a big-time finisher at the rim. After a solid junior year at Rich Central, Ibitayo was impressive throughout the summer with the Illinois Defenders, including an impressive and eye-opening 25-point game in a two-point loss to Meanstreets in Merrillville late in the summer. As expected, Ibitayo opened the eyes of college coaches, with Akron, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Eastern Illinois, Army and Chicago State all offering, with several others showing interest this fall.
With an improved handle on the perimeter, Ibitayo has shown an ability to make plays. While his shooting remains a bit inconsistent, he can get hot with it as proven in games this summer where he knocked down five three-pointers in a game and four in another. But Ibitayo's greatest strength is his pure athleticism and potential to evolve into an impact player in the Mid-American Conference down the road. A huge wingspan and explosiveness off the floor allows him to play much bigger than his 6-3 height. Down the road Ibitayo has the potential to be a dynamite perimeter defender.
Ibitayo joins an Akron program that has had a ton of success in recent years, averaging 24 wins a season over the past five years, with a 24-11 record a year ago and a NCAA Tournament apperance two years ago. That success also played a part in Ibitayo's decision.
"I want to have a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament," says Ibitayo. "Akron has been to the tournament recently and they've won a lot of games."