Tony Akins (전태풍) was taken first overall in the 2009 KBL “Ethnic” draft by the Jeonju KCC Egis.
Tony arguably had the biggest name recognition going into the draft. He played collegiate basketball at Georgia Tech University (1998-2002) and followed a heralded list of point guards that had played at the ACC school. After graduating from college, he played professionally in various European leagues from 2002-2009.
Tony finished the 2009-10 season with the following stats (courtesy of Asia-Basket.com):
Our interview took place in August 2010.
Please note that HalfKorean.com comments/questions are in BOLD.
What made you decide to pursue playing professionally in Korea?
During my first couple of years in Europe I would over hear my teammates talking about experiences from their national team. It started to make me think about how I didn’t appreciate when I played for the USA Junior National team. Then I started to think deeper about what it meant to represent your country in a global competition.
How would you describe your overall experience in the KBL?
The words that would best describe it would be slow progression. It started very rocky but has shown signs of smoothing out and can become to fruition.
What do/did you think of how the KBL did the “Ethnic” draft?
Of course the first time you do something it is about trial and error. So being too critical doesn’t bring out the good like positive suggestion would. I hope from this point on they will make it a Korean draft for all Koreans, part and whole, and then a draft for non-Koreans. It should only be 2 and not 2.5 drafts.
How was acceptance by teammates, players, coaches and fans?
The fans were great off the bat. I think Korean fans are great. They welcomed us all with open arms. I think it was different with the players and coaches maybe because of having to work closely together. They had a lot of fear and I think that is why it was tough at the beginning but now there is so much respect and understanding.
How would you compare playing in the KBL to other pro leagues?
The shooting is amongst the top of other leagues in the world. Koreans can shoot their butts off. We seem to be lacking in the individual aspect of the game. We aren’t very good at breaking a man down one on one or being able to create room to get oneself a shot off.
Did you have the opportunity to talk/meet with the first mixed Korean KBL player and current KBL Technical Commissioner Kim Dong Kwang? If so, did he have anything to share?
I got a chance to talk to him but not about the real issues going on here with being half Korean. I hope in time when we get to better know each other we can have a serious talk about that.
Between the five picks and two existing players (Daniel Sandrin & Julian Fernandez), did you guys get a chance to bond at all while in Korea even though you were in different cities?
Of course, whenever you feel like you are the minority amongst a group people tend to bond together. I would say we are all better friends than what we would have been if we never had to share this experience.
What are your goals in the KBL and how long do you plan to play in the league? Would you pursue Korean citizenship to be able to play for the national team as others have?
– This specific question was discussed in our August 2010 interview with Tony. For this and more about Tony’s experience in Korea and the KBL check out that interview.
Interview by: David Lee Sanders