YSU’s Florida athletes deal with hurricane

YOUNGSTOWN — Michael Akuchie’s steps weren’t the same as normal. He looked sullen at times, his mind was wandering elsewhere.

The Plantation, Fla., native was concerned about his family’s welfare. Florida was in the path of Hurricane Irma, south Florida was in its wake.

The 6-foot-8 Youngstown State men’s basketball freshman forward had experienced these forces of nature before, but the south Florida native felt much different about this hurricane.

His family usually rode them out, but this time they went to his aunt’s house in Bloomington, Ind., to take shelter from this storm for three to four days.

Being away from his family weighed on Akuchie’s mind.

“There would be times I’d be a little emotional about it,” he said. “Not heavy. I’m cool up here. It’s bad because I’m not there to be with them. They’re going through a lot. My mom telling me, what certain valuables you want. Little stuff like that. It was a hard time for me.

“My parents told me they’d be all right, just stay focused up here.”

YSU basketball trainer Todd Burkey said former Penguin player Bobby Hain rode out the storm with his family in Jupiter, Fla. The same for Tampa native Blake Allen and Ocoee native Kendrick Perry. They’re all doing well, according to Burkey.

The Penguins football program has plenty of former players from Florida. Burkey said they’re OK as well.

He has family outside of Jacksonville at Atlantic Beach. Their house was fine, but they evacuated into Jacksonville, where they were caught in the flooding.

“They’re back home now,” Burkey said. “Outside of downed branches and loss of power for a while, they’re doing well, too.”

YSU Director of Player Personnel Kevin Bruinsma had an eye on Irma as well with his in-laws living in Sarasota. The storm was supposed to make a direct hit on the Tampa area, but ended up being more of a tropical storm when it hit the area.

“No damage,” Bruinsma said. “No anything. Just a windy night with a little bit of rain. It was a good thing.”

YSU men’s basketball coach Jerrod Calhoun knew of a couple of people in Florida as well, but he is concerned about the welfare of Akuchie.

“I think the whole hurricane thing has shook everybody up around the country,” Calhoun said. “When you have a player, his parents and brothers, it becomes a little bit closer to your heart and your awareness about the situation.

“I think he’s handled it really good. I know he’s happy now that’s it’s died down.”