The skinny kid used to show up at the Bloomingdale High School gym every day of his summer vacation clutching a basketball and hoping the big guys would let him play.
Chris Akers soon became a regular in those pick-up games. As a six-foot eighth-grader, Akers got knocked around a lot, but he learned the game.
"The gym was always open in the summertime," said Akers. "There were always people there _ older people, but there were always enough people to run a game. At first it bothered me; I was timid. But I think it helped a lot, playing against those older guys. Now when I play with guys my own age, I think I'm a step above them."
Today as a 6-foot-6 senior forward for the Bloomingdale basketball team, Akers stands above his peers as the state's leading scorer with 31.5 points per game.
Despite a season-low 17 points last Friday in an 87-73 loss to Gaither, Akers improved his average from a week ago with a 36-point effort in the Bulls' 73-71 win over Chamberlain Saturday and a career-best 46 points in an 83-59 victory over Leto Tuesday.
The 46 point outburst is the highest total by a Hillsborough County player this season. It also broke the school record of 44 points in a game set by Alvin Harris two years ago. In addition Tuesday, Akers surpassed his friend Travis Schintzius' school record of 616 points in one season (1988-89) with 630.
"In all honesty, I was not aware he had a shot at (the single-game) record until (Bulls reserves) Aaron Shaw and Chris Laws told me," said Bulls coach Phil Zimmerman. "So I called (Akers) over and told him I'd give him one more shot and then I was going to take him out. The kid has made pressure shots all season and don't you know he buried a three on his last shot."
Akers could have scored 50 points against Leto, but he was only 3-for-9 for free throws.
With 1,150 points in his career, Akers is within striking distance of Brian Lott's school record of 1,299. But Akers isn't just a shooter. He fights for many of his points. On Jan. 21, he had 27 rebounds to break the school mark of 21 in one game set by Schintzius and equaled by Rob Webster. He is averaging 12.7 rebounds per game this season.
Yet Akers said he would trade his individual achievements for Bloomingdale's first district title. The Bulls (11-9) have hovered near the .500 mark all season, but they have won three of their last four.
Akers is being recruited by a list of Division I colleges that includes Florida, Central Florida, Purdue, Arizona and The Citadel, but he said he would like to attend a school where he can play basketball and compete in the high jump as a member of the track team.
Akers leaped 6-8 in the high jump at the state meet last year, good for third place. His personal best is 6-10. Always testing his limits, Akers has set a goal once he completes the basketball season: to crack the seven-foot barrier in the high jump.