With just two front court contributors from last season’s 23-win team due to return in 2015-16, Rhode Island needed to address its interior depth in the 2015 class. Head coach Dan Hurley and his staff have done that, with Earl Watson available after arriving in Kingston mid-year from junior college and three front court newcomers due to join the program.
URI landed the third newcomer on Saturday, as 6-foot-8 forward Nicola Akele announced via Twitter that he’s committed to the Atlantic 10 school. Akele hails from Italy, and he joined the IMG Academy program in November.
Akele has plenty of experience, as he played for Reyer Valencia in Italy’s Serie A (as an amateur, of course) and for Italy’s U-20 national team. In last summer’s FIBA Division A U20 European Championships Akele averaged 5.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, shooting nearly 54 percent from the field.
According to the Providence Journal, Akele’s versatility and athleticism factored into URI’s decision to recruit him. He joins a front court that will be led by one of the Atlantic 10’s best in Hassan Martin, with Ifeanyi Onyekaba being the lone senior in the rotation. Also looking to earn minutes will be the aforementioned Watson, junior college transfer Andre Berry and freshman Leroy Butts.
In total URI will have seven players who didn’t play for URI in 2014-15 on next season’s roster, with graduate student Four McGlynn, Memphis transfer Kuran Iverson (he’ll be eligible to play in December) and freshman guard Christion Thompson joining the four front court players.