Last season was one for the ages at Minnesota, as the Golden Gophers shocked everyone and had one of the most improved teams in college basketball. Coming off an 8-23 season in 2015-16, the Gophers went 24-10 and made their first NCAA Tournament under head coach Richard Pitino.
Playing as the No. 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Gophers lost in upset fashion to No. 12 Middle Tennessee State. However, the team was playing without their captain and best shooter, Akeem Springs, who went down with Achilles injury in the Big Ten Tournament.
While it’s never smart to play the ‘what if game’, I think the team’s spirit took a huge hit when Springs went down. Had be been able to play, they probably wouldn’t have been underdogs to a 12-seed and would have put up much more of a fight—instead of losing 81-72.
With the Big Dance deep in the rear-view mirror, Springs is done with school and looking to the future. He recently posted a video on his Twitter account which showed him raising up on the balls of his feet, announcing to the world his Achilles injury is getting much better.
As of June 17th, it’s unclear what Akeem Springs’ plans are in terms of a playing career. He certainly has the talent and intangibles to pursue a professional basketball life, but with rehab taking up most of his time in the last few months, he’s largely been off the NBA’s radar.
What we do know, however, is that he did he signed on with an agency on May 16th and is working hard to get back to 100 percent. Although he posted a tweet about coaching in Florida next year, he also confirmed to me on Twitter that he would be continuing his playing career.
With that said, let’s break down his prospects for the next level.
Akeem Springs is an above-average jump shooter, especially from behind the three-point line and off the dribble to his left side. In his lone season with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, he shot a career-high 38.3 percent from deep, hitting 67 treys overall.
Besides his potent shooting touch, the 6-foot-4 wing has a knack for playing with relentless intensity. He has an endless motor both physically and verbally, making him the true lynchpin on Minnesota's improved defense.
In an article from the Star Tribune after his injury, it was noted that the team’s on-court chemistry was severely disrupted without Springs.
Possibly the most impressive sign of Springs’ intangible value is the fact that he was elected captain in his only season. To see his teammates give him the honor over longer-tenured players says a lot about the type of guy he is.
One of the main things that will set Akeem Springs back is something I’ve already mentioned—his injury.
Coming back from an Achilles injury is no joke, just ask Kobe Bryant and Isiah Thomas. Sometimes players can make complete recoveries, but you must assume that it’s not something NBA scouts are happy to see.
Speaking of NBA scouts, another place where he struggles is in actual exposure. Springs came to Minnesota after playing at two other Division-1 schools—Northern Illinois and Milwaukee—both of which are relatively small and off the grid. Plus, before entering college he was just a two-star recruit and wasn’t highly sought after by big-time schools.
On the court, the Illinois-native is mainly a shooter, both spot-up and off one-or-two dribbles. Being just 6-foot-4, he is undersized at the ‘three’ and would have to prove he can handle the ball and get to the rim against top-level defenders.
I’ll say it now and get it out of the way: Akeem Springs will not hear his name called in the upcoming NBA Draft. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t see him having a successful career as a professional basketball player.
Honestly, I think he is better suited now than say, five years ago. Basketball is becoming more and more reliant on outside shooting, with ‘3-and-D’ guys the newest must-have commodity. Akeem Springs is precisely that: a hard-nosed defender with above average shooting range.
Only time will tell if his injury heals to where it needs to be, and if it does, Akeem Springs will sign a contract to be a professional basketball player.
Maybe he never makes the NBA, maybe he does. Regardless of where he ends up, that team will be getting a player who loves the game of basketball and is a good dude to boot.