James Akinjo entered the 2017 Peach Jam on a mission, including two simple goals.
The first was obvious; help the Oakland Soldiers win the title.
The second was a bit more personal.
Akinjo was sick and tired of scouts and coaches alike overlooking his play.
He wanted more interest. He wanted more offers.
His second goal was straight to the point; he wanted people to know his name.
Five days and eight games later, it's safe to say the following on both goals:
Akinjo took his game to a completely new level in North Augusta, averaging 18.8 points, 6.8 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals while leading the Soldiers to a 6-2 record and the Peach Jam crown. His leadership skills were better than ever, his court vision on point, and his competitiveness switch didn't turn 'off' all week.
While the Soldiers accomplished the Peach Jam trophy as a team, it's hard to think where they would be without Akinjo. He enjoyed a solid regular season, averaging 10.1 points, 4.3 assists and 1.9 rebounds per game, while helping the Soldiers rally to a 4-0 fourth session - which was desperately needed to qualify for Peach Jam after their 5-7 start.
While Akinjo bolstered each and every one of his statistical averages during Peach Jam, perhaps his greatest improvement happened off the court. Akinjo blossomed into a leader during June and July, something that his head coach Marshall Collins attributed a lot of credit to.
"James stepped up as a leader, not just on the floor, but off the floor," Collins said, also mentioning star forward Taeshon Cherry as a prominent leader. "They bought into everything we asked them to do, and they led us to this victory."
While his skills are improving, becoming a more refined leader remains a focus for the rising senior.
"I'm still looking to improve my leadership skills," Akinjo said "I need to play well when the times get tough."
He did that and more during Peach Jam, hitting clutch bucket after clutch bucket. Asked the best player he saw at Peach Jam, PSA Cardinals head coach Munch Williams didn't mince words.
"The Soldiers point guard," Williams admitted. "He killed us."
Akinjo's EYBL career as a Soldier is over, and with his two goals accomplished, the rising prospect couldn't help but give credit to his grassroots home.
"(The Soldiers) program means a lot," Akinjo explained. "Just playing with that "Soldiers' name on your chest. Everyone knows who you are and everyone wants to come after you."
Akinjo's right - everyone in grassroots knows the Soldiers brand.
And now, they know the name James Akinjo.