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Dan Akin | "We got a heroes welcome on arrival, at like 2am"

When we talk about British basketball players competing in the NCAA, it's hard not to mention Dan Akin. The 6 '9 forward currently attends Utah State. Attending California Baptist last season before joining the portal in the summer to transfer to Utah. The London native was built to play basketball. He picked up the game at the age of 16 and found a natural love for the sport. This led the forward to go on to play D1 basketball in the US for five years.


Prior to the move to the US, Dan led his team in Barking Abbey to the league and play off title here in the UK. After leading his team with MVP honours, he was successful getting the call up to the Great British under-20 national team for the European championship held in Germany.


During his time in college, Dan is widely known as being a part of the team that created the biggest upset in NCAA history. The unthinkable happened, a 16th seed UMBC beating a number 1st seed Virginia in the NCAA’s men's tournament. This win was supposed to be impossible. In 135 previous attempts, a 16th seed had never beaten a 1st seed to advance to the second round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.


As the University of Maryland – Baltimore County took to the court against the University of Virginia. Here in England the majority of the country was blissfully unaware of the history that was being created across the pond. Unaware that a 19-year-old from south east London – who had only started playing competitive basketball three years ago – was playing a part in one of the biggest sporting shocks of all time. Virginia were strong favourites to win the national title until the unprecedented happened.


Dan made the transfer to California Baptist last season, playing in 34 games and starting 33 for the Lancers during the 2021-22 season, averaging 10.8ppg and 8.1rpg. Leading the team on the glass and ranked second in the Western Athletic Conference in both total rebounds and rebounds per game.


Dan has joined the Utah State Aggies for the 2022-23 season.


Is it correct that you didn't start playing Basketball till 16 years old? Did the game come naturally to you as most players play their whole life hoping to get a chance at an American college?


Yes, I started playing when I was 16. Most aspects of the game came naturally to me just from being naturally athletic and being a competitor, everything i do i do it to win so that mentality definitely helped with basketball. I only really thought about college basketball being an avenue for me when I was 17 and was seeing how quickly I was progressing at the game.


You pulled off one of the greatest upsets in NCAA history by beating the number one seed Virginia in 2018 with UMBC, you received a hero’s welcome from the fans and made history. How was that experience?


The upset was a unbelieve experience. Words can’t really do it justice on how crazy that game was. Everyone loves a good underdog story but that game really epitomises what an underdog story is truly about. Becoming instant celebrities overnight was overwhelming because many people did not know what umbc was or what it standed for. So it was really cool to know that we put a small school like umbc on the basketball map. All the love and support we got once we got back was amazing as well, everyone was genuinely so proud of us and like you said we got a heroes welcome on arrival, at like 2am we were greeted by students waiting for us on campus. Knowing that everyone on that team will forever be part of basketball history is a thing I will never get adjusted to.


Being born and raised in London, how was life adjusting to education and the lifestyle in the US?


Transitioning to the US after being born and raised in London was initially very difficult. Being away from my immediate family is the toughest thing. Going from seeing them on a regular basis to maybe once or twice a year if you’re lucky is definitely challenging. Funny enough there is a language barrier even though the majority of people in the states speak english but my english hoopers can attest that british english and american english isn’t the same. Education wise for me initially it was hard because umbc is renowned for its great academics so I had to adjust to that and really lock into the student aspect of being a student athlete.


You entered the portal before last season and moved school over to CBU, what was the reason behind and how was your first season?


I decided to enter the portal, because the former coaches at umbc had left to go to a different college. I had just graduated from umbc so i felt like i wanted to do something different and experience another side to america always. So that was a big reason for going from east to west coast. I also wanted a different role as well as knowing I was capable of doing more things than what I was displaying at times. My first season personally went well as I got the role I wanted and was able to have career highs in all statistical categories. Also living in California was really cool and made a ton of great relationships on and off the court.