Two things North Pulaski senior guard Joe Aikens has wanted to do since he was little is play basketball at a Division I school and become a pilot. Those two dreams united last Friday when Aikens (6-4, 180) signed a national letter-of-intent to play basketball at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
"It’s pretty exciting for a player like him in our program," North Pulaski Coach Roy Jackson said. "They (coaches at Air Force) liked his guard play, athletic ability and high basketball IQ."
Aikens said since his mom, Joanne, is a flight attendant, he has seen, heard and been around planes. That led him to showing an interest in being a pilot. On the other hand, his father, James, is retired Air Force and has worked with Aikens most nights at the Little Rock Air Force Base gym. James’ desire is for Aikens to play in the NBA.
"I committed to a great college, and all the hard work and late nights in the gym paid off," Aikens said. "Once I was offered last June, I thought about it and decided it was the best place for me."
Aiken, who averaged 13 points a game, six rebounds and five assists last year, was noticed by the Academy when he was a sophomore playing AAU ball at The Real Deal on the Hill in Little Rock. The coaches came to him and said the needed to get a 24 on the ACT. After three attempts and getting 23s, he finally scored the 24 and then contacted the coaches to let them know. Last summer, Aikens was invited to a camp at the Academy, and two days later, assistant Coach Silvey Dominguez offered.
"They liked that I can drive and penetrate and kick out or shoot the pull-up jumper," Aikens said. "The one thing they told me is I need to work on my 3-point shot."
Although Aikens scored the 24 on the ACT the Academy required, his GPA is still not where it should be. So, he will enter the Prep School for the first year. While enrolled in this school, he will get to play on a competitive basketball team. After his freshman and sophomore years, Aikens will have a decision to make. It is during the junior year when cadets have to decide if they going to make a five-year commitment to the Air Force. He hopes he doesn’t have to make that decision, as his next dream is to play in the NBA.