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DEFECTORS: LeBlanc Leaving LSU, McClung Moving On, Akinjo Joining Baylor

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What’s happening with #Mackinjo, LeBlanc these days?

Big East Basketball Media Day Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

There were over 1,600 student-athletes in the NCAA men’s basketball transfer portal but a few names significantly stuck out recently to fans of the Georgetown Hoyas. No, I’m not talking about Wahab or Sibley. It’s the three former All-BIG EAST Freshman Team members Josh LeBlanc, James Akinjo, and Matthew “Mac” McClung—all of whom are moving on from their one-year post-Georgetown homes.

Josh LeBlanc, Sr. is now in search of pastures greener than his local Louisiana State University.

James and Mac have been on the move for a few weeks. Known as “Mackinjo” around these parts since Kenner League, the once-heralded Hoyas backcourt of Akinjo and McClung have left from their respective post-Georgetown programs and are headed to new homes.

Akinjo will be joining Baylor.

McClung, after considering transferring from Texas Tech, will be turning pro.

Some of the Hoya faithful will continue to urge our fellow fans to focus on the current team and not gawk at three 20-year-olds finding their paths, you’re probably right. However, this is newsworthy, and this humble lunch blog contributor will strive to be respectful of these former fan-favorites during these transition periods.

As a refresher, James Akinjo and Mac McClung were declared the backcourt of the future for Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas after promising performances in the 2018-19 season.

The 3-star former Rutgers-commit announced his intent to come to Georgetown on October 15, 2017 and then Ewing successfully pursued the 97th ranked recruit, a point guard from California who decommitted from UConn, James Akinjo, who committed to GU in April 2018.

During their freshman year season, James Akinjo averaged 13 points and nearly 6 assists, and was named BIG EAST Freshman of the Year. Mac McClung averaged 12 points per game and was named to the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team.

The duo led the Hoyas to nice late-season wins against Villanova (#16) and at Marquette (#16)—two of Ewing’s best W’s at the time.

Of course, Georgetown had a third freshman that year, Josh LeBlanc, who made the All-Freshman team, as well. LeBlanc averaged 9 point per game and 7 rebounds, and was a bundle of “energy and effort” as Ewing routinely noted in post-game press conferences. The Hoyas ended up 9-9 for 3rd place in the conference. With Jessie Govan (17.5 ppg, 7.5 reb) graduating, the ball was literally going to be in the hands of this young nucleus for the next few seasons and fans were excited.

The question at this point might be “what went wrong?” Well, we still don’t know.

Each of them was on track for a productive college career. Their freshman year stats were very promising but clearly they weren’t perfect. Akinjo shot 35% on two-pointers, McClung shot only 27% from three, LeBlanc’s scoring was inconsistent at best. Each guard had a couple games with multiple bad turnovers, with Akinjo averaging 3 per game and McClung averaging 2. But these were issues that college players with professional aspirations work hard to iron out as sophomores.

Ahead of the 2019-20 season, in August 2019, the Hoyas played several exhibition games in the Bahamas. A couple exciting additions to the front court included Omer Yurtseven (remember transfers sitting out? Ha!), Juco transfer Galen Alexander, and freshman Myron Gardner. ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla saw the tropical games and practices in-person and noted the Hoyas’ preseason depth on several occasions—praising LeBlanc as one of his favorite college basketball players in the country.

When the start of the season came around, there was plenty of excitement for Akinjo and McClung to lead the Hoyas to the top of the BIG EAST and a tournament berth in Ewing’s third season.

This humble blog contributor spoke with Akinjo, McClung, Yurtseven, and Ewing at BIG EAST Media Day and all four seemed locked in, despite being picked to finish at sixth place. The expectations on the Hilltop were high, which made the first few games pretty disappointing.

Georgetown struggled at times against early-season opponents like Mount St. Mary’s, Central Arkansas, and Georgia State—and the Hoyas lost decisively to Penn State at home. A nice win against Shaka Smart’s 20th-ranked Texas at Madison Square Garden was a huge season highlight, and the Hoyas fought hard, the next night, against #1-ranked Duke (and their referee friends). We saw glimmers of what could be.

Outsiders thought Georgetown was finally jelling, but inside it couldn’t have been further from the truth. A home loss to UNC-Greensboro, 61-65, on November 30th revealed the truth.

Then, on December 2nd, Georgetown announced that James Akinjo and Josh LeBlanc would no longer be playing for the men’s basketball team. Shortly thereafter, a few journalists discovered that there were restraining orders and/or civil complaints against Galen Alexander, Myron Garnder, and Josh LeBlanc. The reports sounded scary for all parties involved—not to mention how it reflected on the program and school.

Akinjo, however, appeared uninvolved in the incidents and was unfortunately caught in the news crossfire. The best anyone could figure out with Akinjo’s rationale for leaving was based in his (or his uncle’s) hatred of McClung and/or Ewing’s insistence to use the low post feed.

During the early season, LeBlanc, a starter during freshman year and all-freshman team honoree, was coming off the bench and had been playing inconsistent minutes at best. The reports seemed to indicate a plausible rationale for why LeBlanc was apparently in Ewing’s dog house. Since then, the incidents appeared to be resolved in a few weeks. There were no arrests, a consent agreement reported to have been signed, and the investigation appears closed. Fans didn’t know what to take away from all the drama.

Without the transfers, Mac McClung and Omer Yurtseven led a shortened lineup to a fantastic December. The short-handed Hoyas, with Jagan Mosely and Terrell Allen, went on a trip to Oklahoma and Texas and brought home two road wins against undefeated teams—Oklahoma State 81-74 and SMU 91-74. The Hoyas handled their hated rival, Syracuse, 89-79 with only 8 GU players earning minutes. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim criticized James Akinjo’s style of play in the past 7 games and complimented Patrick Ewing on rallying the remaining players in December. It was weird to agree with Boeheim.

The winning was short-lived as the team ran out of gas in February and March. Georgetown did get a nice win at Butler with McClung on the bench. McClung had a phantom injury for much of the end of the season, believed to be plantar fasciitis, and the road ended with a BIG EAST Tournament loss right before the pandemic.

Declaring himself eligible for the NBA, McClung readily admitted before testing the draft waters that he needed to work on his “decision-making and shot selection.” McClung gave April interviews with Ben Standig of The Athletic and Ava Wallace of the Washington Post where he did not betray any intent to imminently defect. Ewing walked back a comment that McClung would return to Georgetown after McClung’s agent got angry but it was likely past the last straw.

McClung told ESPN that he was withdrawing from the NBA Draft and entering the transfer portal, saying, “It was a number of different events that made me feel I had no choice but to transfer from Georgetown” and said, “I really wanted to stay, but things throughout my career made me realize that I couldn’t.” There was further speculation about the reasons McClung left, including that he wanted a “showcase” or to be more of a point guard.

McClung took his talents to Lubbock and gave Texas Tech fans some great highlights—just not anything stat-wise (e.g., shooting percentages, assists) that looked significantly better than his BIG EAST numbers.

After the season, Texas Tech’s Coach Beard left for Texas and McClung entered his name in the transfer portal, along with the NBA Draft.

Before McClung announced his intent to go pro and not to return to Texas Tech (e.g., after withdrawing his name from the portal), the two former teammates were expected to face each other twice next season. That won’t happen.

McClung has since withdrawn his name from the transfer portal and remains in the NBA Draft. After some work in Philadelphia with shooting coach Drew Hanlan, McClung has been attending the G League Combine.

Akinjo had a solid season at Arizona but still has plenty to prove. ESPN reported that “National champion Baylor is adding transfer guard James Akinjo, the leading scorer for Arizona last season” and that “Akinjo averaged 15.6 points and 5.4 assists while starting all 26 games in his only season at Arizona” and “was a second-team Associated Press All-Pac 12 pick for the Wildcats, who had a recent coaching change.” (Wait, just a coaching change?)

Still, Akinjo enters Baylor with a lot of question marks appearing around his name.

Last season LeBlanc just could not find consistent minutes at LSU. His “energy and effort” on the boards and in defense are reportedly still there. Announcing his intent to transfer in late June, LeBlanc may have difficulty finding an open roster spot on a high-level program.

We wish all three the best of luck.