Akhator’s fantastic career winding down at UK


Junior forward Evelyn Akhator (13) jumps for the ball for the opening tip before the game against the Tennessee Volunteers on Monday, January 25, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won the game 64-63. Photo by Hunter Mitchell | Staff

Chris Leach

Some of the loudest moments in Memorial Coliseum this season have come when Evelyn Akhator, a senior from Lagos, Nigeria, scores a layup and gets fouled for an and-one. Fans go crazy every time Akhator gets a contested shot to fall, and they are running out of opportunities to see Akhator before her college basketball career at UK comes to an end.

There are two regular season games and the postseason before Akhator’s time at UK is up. Instead of thinking about the end, Akhator is focused on helping her team finish the season strong.

“It is something that I have to think about (the end of her career), but I know there are few games left,” Akhator said. “Right now I am still here and I just have to think about my team and everybody else.”

It would be in UK’s best interest if Akhator remained focused on the remaining games, because she has been a big reason why the Cats have been as successful as they have.

The senior has averaged 14.9 points per game this season, and leads the team in rebounds with 10.4 boards a game. Akhator accounts for over 25 percent of the team’s rebounds, and ranks in the top 25 nationally in rebounds per game.

As UK’s dominant post player, Akhator has 14 double-doubles this season, bringing her career total to 27 double-doubles, which ranks fourth most in UK history. Akhator’s 14 double-doubles this season also places her fourth on UK’s all-time list for the most double-doubles in a season, only behind Valerie Still who owns the top three spots.

Akhator’s presence in the post is vital to the team, and without it the Cats would certainly be farther down in the SEC standings than they currently are.

The Cats have had issues in the paint this season, getting out rebounded and outscored in the paint numerous times. Of the eight losses UK has, they were out-rebounded in six of those contests.

If the Cats did not have Akhator battling in the paint, the post issues UK has would be far worse, and it would be easy to imagine the Cats having more than eight losses.

Akhator is not only a solid rebounder; she is also a important scorer on offense. Akhator averages the second most points per game on the team, and has the highest field goal percentage of any player on the team, shooting 60 percent from the field. Akhator has led the Cats in scoring in eight games this season, all but one were victories.

“Usually when we get the ball to Evelyn we start clicking a lot better,” Maci Morris said, following the victory over Florida where Akhator scored 19 and grabbed nine rebounds.

For Akhator, it is not about the and-ones, or the double-doubles, it is about getting wins. Akhator will have an opportunity for a big win on Feb. 23, when the Cats host No. 3 Mississippi State for senior night.

A win against Bulldogs would arguably be the biggest win of the season if UK can pull off the upset. With such a big opponent coming to Memorial Coliseum Thursday evening, Matthew Mitchell is hoping he can send Akhator, and fellow senior Makayla Epps, off on a good note.

“We’re going to work our heads off between now and Thursday night getting ready to play our very best,” Mitchell said. “See if we can send (Makayla Epps) and Evelyn (Akhator) off with a victory.”