The addition of Riak comes one day after . . .
DENG IS SKILLED FRONTCOURT PLAYER
"Deng is a perfect fit for our program," Groce said. "He is big and strong, and he can impact the game on both ends of the floor. He is a skilled frontcourt player that can score inside and out with an extremely high basketball I.Q. Deng's length and I.Q. will allow him to be one of the best defenders in the MAC."
Riak is a 6-foot-10 forward arriving from East Carolina and will be eligible to compete during the 2018-19 season. While at East Carolina, Riak appeared in eight games as a freshman (2015-16), but suffered a season-ending injury after only 45-minutes of competition.
As a redshirt freshman (2016-17), Riak played in all 33 games while making 17 starting appearances. He averaged 21.3 minutes per game, posting 3.2 points and 5.2 rebounds a night. His 171 total rebounds ranked third-best for the Pirates, while Riak's 15 blocked shots were tied for second on the team.
Riak scored a season-high nine points against SMU on a 3-of-7 shooting effort from the field, including a 1-of-2 performance from deep and 2-of-2 showing from the free throw line. He blocked at least one shot in every game for 13 contests, and registered a pair of blocks in two games last season. In addition, Riak added a pair of double-digit rebounding efforts, grabbing 11 and 10 in both outings against Tulsa.
"Deng has a relentless drive to be a great player," Groce said. "His work ethic and determination allow him to improve every day. He is only going to get better and better during his sit-out year, and we look forward to Deng impacting our team."
Prior to his time at East Carolina, Riak played high school hoops with recent signee Loren Jackson at Victory Rock Prep in Bradenton, Fla. He averaged 12.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game as a senior and was rated as a Top 12 prospect in the state of Florida.
HIGH ENERGY FORMER GATOR
The Akron Zips continue to build for the future by adding Florida Gator transfer Eric Hester (Clearwater, Fla.) to the roster, head coach John Groce announced Tuesday.
"We are excited to add a player like Eric to the roster," Groce said. "He is a 6-foot-3 high-energy guard with a 6-foot-10 wingspan. He is an exceptional two-way player that uses his length and skill to be a tremendous defender as well as an explosive offensive player that can make shots and finish at the rim."
Hester arrives to Akron from Florida and will be eligible to compete during the 2018-19 season. As a freshman at Florida, Hester played in 20 games, averaging 5.6 minutes per game. He scored 43 total points, supported by a 15-of-23 (.652) showing from the field that included an 11-of-19 (.579) effort from beyond the 3-point arc. In addition, Hester pulled down 10 rebounds and dished out six assists with six steals.
Hester's freshman season highlights include a career-high 16 points at LSU on a perfect 5-of-5 performance from long distance. He also scored eight points against Missouri on 3-of-5 (.600) shooting and 2-of-4 (.500) from deep.
"As we continue to build our roster it is essential that we add versatile players like Eric," Groce said. "Coming from a great high school program and playing at Florida, Eric has competed against some of the best guards in the country. He knows what it takes to be successful at this level and loves to be in the gym. Eric plays with a high-level of emotion and energy, and that passion inspires his teammates."
Hester was rated as a four-star prospect out of Oldsmar Christian. In addition, USA Today had Hester tabbed as a Top 100 player as he led the Eagles to a 26-4 record as a senior and 27-9 prep record. With Hester on the squad, the Eagles were ranked in the Top 100 nationally and as high as 5th in the state of Florida.
JACKSON EXCELS OFF SCREENS AND IN OPEN COURT
Jackson, meanwhile, is a guard transferring from Long Beach State, who will become eligible for competition during the 2018-19 season.
"Loren is a terrific fit for how we want to play; he excels off ball screens and in the open court," Groce said. "He is a gifted leader with a high basketball I.Q. He will make an immediate impact on our team and the future success of Zips Basketball."
The Windy City native appeared in 34 games and started five times for the 49ers as a freshman in 2016-17. In 18.9 minutes per game, he averaged 5.8 points, while shooting 43.7 percent from the floor (66-of-151) and 34.8 percent from beyond the 3-point arc (23-of-66). Jackson dished out 52 assists and grabbed 40 rebounds with 21 steals.
"Loren is a coaches' son, who has grown up in a gym," Groce said. "He is a high-character guy with a relentless work ethic and knows what it takes to get better."
Jackson was a three-star prospect and rated as the No. 9 prospect from Illinois in the 2016 class by ESPN.com. During his senior year at Victory Rock Prep in Bradenton, Fla., Jackson averaged 22.2 points and 7.3 assists while leading the squad to a 27-6 overall record and the 2015-16 Grind Session National Championship.