Akognon has been one of the top scorers in China the past two seasons. Undersized for a wing at 5-foot-11, he showed off his deadly outside shot by burying 5 of 10 3-pointers against the Lakers.
Among players who saw action both of the first two days of Las Vegas play, Charlotte’s Byron Mullens (21.0) and Golden State’s Thompson (20.5) were the only players with higher scoring averages than Akognon (20.0). Games run through next Sunday.
Thompson scored a game-high 24 points Friday in a 90-50 rout of the Lakers, then added 17 Saturday in a 95-74 win over Denver. He’s 10 for 14 on 3’s and has 12 rebounds, nine assists, three steals, three blocks and nine turnovers.
Coming off a strong rookie season in the NBA, Thompson had been practicing against the U.S. Olympic team before that squad left Las Vegas.
“I had butterflies my first day, I’m not gonna lie,” Thompson told NBA.com. “You see Kobe (Lakers great Kobe Bryant, Thompson’s childhood idol), you see that starting lineup when you go out there and you can’t hide, because everyone can expose you.”
Thompson said the workouts with the Olympians will benefit him.
“The thing I take from that is seeing how the great ones prepare,” he said. “I just saw how serious they take the game. Even in practice, they’re all super competitive.”
Pete Myers, a Golden State assistant coach who is running the Warriors summer team, said he’s been impressed with Thompson’s hard work. “This is a guy I want to go to war with, because he wants to be great and will do what it takes to get there,” Myers said.
ELSEWHERE IN THE NBA’S Las Vegas Summer League, Cougar Kyle Weaver scored two points in nine minutes off the bench in Miami’s opening game, a 71-59 win over Toronto on Sunday.
Weaver played in four of five games for Utah in the NBA’s Orlando (Fla.) Summer League last week, averaging 1.8 points, assists and turnovers in limited action. He made one start.
Weaver split his first three pro seasons between the NBA and the NBA Development League. He finished the 2010-11 season in Belgium, then played in Germany this past season.
ONE OF THE GREAT DEFENDERS in WSU football history, Erik Coleman, is making huge strides in his attempt to return to NFL action after breaking his leg early last season.
Coleman is entering his ninth NFL season and second with the Detroit Lions. Coleman recently told the Detroit Free Press he’s feeling better than ever and Lions head coach Jim Schwartz seems to agree, telling reporters, "Erik has had an outstanding offseason, an outstanding mini-camp, OTAs, everything else."
In other NFL Cougar news, NFL.com noted the other day that Saints QB Drew Brees’ new contract means he will make more than the entire rest of the New Orleans offense. To illustrate the size of the $40 million he will earn this season they noted that the Saints’ starting fullback, one-time multi-dimensional Cougar Jed Collins, will make $465,000 this year.
MILB.COM, A WEBSITE DEDICATED to minor league baseball, currently features an extensive interview with ex-WSU star Adam Conley about his three pitches – fastball, slider and changeup. Conley, who bypassed his senior season with the Cougars to sign with Miami as a second-round draft pick last year, is regarded as one of the top prospects in the Marlins farm system. The hard-throwing southpaw was recently promoted from Greensboro, N.C., in the South Atlantic League to Jupiter, Fla., in the Florida State League. Both leagues are Class A.
Conley, a Seattle Mariners fan when growing up in Olympia, told MILB.com he learned a valuable tip in college about throwing his changeup when he heard an interview with former Mariners pitcher Jamie Moyer. Now Conley says he’s taking advantage of the expertise offered by Jupiter pitching coach Joe Coleman, a two-time 20-game winner in the majors.
“He’s been in baseball for something like 50 years,” Conley told MILB.com. “He’s a guy that when he opens his mouth, everybody stops and listens because every word that guy says might change your career. That’s how much he knows about the game.”
FORMER WASHINGTON STATE FOOTBALL player and assistant coach Jody Sears leaned on his Palouse roots and hired former WSU graduate assistant coach Ryan Smaha as special teams coach at Weber State. Smaha, who grew up in Pullman, is the son of former WSU head athletics trainer Mark Smaha. The younger Smaha spent last season as the outside linebackers coach at Idaho State under ex-WSU assistant coordinator of football operations Mike Kramer.
Sears added the head coaching duties to his defensive coordinator responsibilities at Weber State when newly hired head coach John L. Smith (another former WSU assistant) abruptly left the Wildcats in April to take the interim head coaching job at Arkansas. Smith later admitted he may be facing bankruptcy, so the boost in pay (from $130,000 a year at Weber to $850,000 at Arkansas) should help.
JESSE HOORELBEKE, WHO PLAYED BASEBALL at WSU in 1997, continues to bang the ball in his 11th year in the minor leagues. Hoorelbeke is batting .319 with 12 home runs and 26 RBIs in 46 games with the Somerset Patriots of Bridgewater, N.J. Somerset plays in the independent (no major league affiliates) Atlantic League.
Hoorelbeke, a 34-year-old designated hitter and first baseman, is a seven-year veteran of independent ball. His manager at Somerset is former New York Yankees relief ace Sparky Lyle. Hoorelbeke has smashed 235 home runs in the minors. That includes five in 14 games in his only shot at Triple-A (the highest level of the minors) as a Chicago Cubs farmhand with Iowa in the Pacific Coast League in 2006.
Hoorelbeke grew up in Southern California but graduated from Coeur d’Alene High School after his family moved north. His father, Peter Rivera, was the lead singer and drummer of the popular 1970s rock band Rare Earth (“Get Ready”)