Though it's being billed as "661 Night," not all Kern County natives are likely to receive a warm greeting from the Cal State Bakersfield men's basketball team in a game Wednesday night.
In the WAC tilt against California Baptist, the Roadrunners will face the tall task of trying to contain star Lancer guard Milan Acquaah, who grew up in Bakersfield.
Though he left the city after his eighth-grade year, Acquaah, who played two years at Warren Middle School, still has several ties to the city and is expecting anywhere from 40 to 50 friends and family to be in attendance Wednesday.
After bouncing around Southern Californian -- playing for Chino Hills, La Salle and Cathedral -- in high school, Acquaah spent two years at Washington State before transferring Cal Baptist, which made the leap to Division I basketball during the 2018-19 season.
Though he speaks to some of them "pretty much on a daily basis," Acquaah's relatives didn't see much of his formative years on the basketball court, and he says he's thrilled to play in a conference where he can make an annual return to the city where he grew up.
“It’s definitely exciting," Acquaah said of playing in Bakersfield. "It’s fun to just be able to have my family be able to see me play, people that I don’t see very often. It’s an exciting environment to me.”
Making the trip more exciting is that Acquaah's family gets to watch a player that's developed into one of the most efficient offensive weapons in the country.
After averaging a WAC-best 19 points per game last season, Acquaah was named the conference's Preseason Player of the Year, and has proven himself worthy of the hype so far this season.
He's currently second in the league in scoring (19.5 points per game), while leading the league in assists by a wide margin. His 6.5 assists per game are nearly two more than anyone else in the conference. Entering Tuesday, his 97 assists were tied for the seventh most in the country.
He made his presence felt in two games against CSUB a year ago. He scored 27 points when the two teams met in Riverside, then had an 11-point, eight-assist outing to lead the Lancers to a 72-58 win in Bakersfield last February.
"It's really difficult," CSUB coach Rod Barnes said of preparing for Acquaah. "Sometimes maybe you’ve got a guy who can really pass the ball and help other guys out, you just focus on that. Then you have some guys that are just scorers, just guys that go and can score the basketball so you try to take the ball out of their hands.
"He’s one of those guys that’s a double-threat. He can hurt you or he can create for others that can end up giving them opportunities that will allow them to score. It takes a lot of work, a lot of focus, a lot of scouting when you start talking about containing a guy like him.”
Though hoping to put on a good show for friends and family, Acquaah has the same goal Wednesday night as he has for the rest of season. After leading the Lancers to a postseason berth -- they earned a spot in the College Basketball Invitational -- in their first season of Division I play, he's set even higher goals for 2020.
"The biggest thing for me would to win," he said. "I just want to be able to play my game. I'd be happy with whatever personal accolades came with that."