Making Quite An Impression - Acker's An Artist On, Off Court Jan. 22, 2005 By Jill Painter LA Daily News Staff Writer MALIBU -- Pepperdine's Alex Acker can do so much on the basketball court. At 6-foot-5, the junior guard can score, block shots, rebound, get steals and shoot with efficiency, making him one of the better all-around guards on the West Coast. There's more to Acker than basketball. He can do plenty on a canvas, too. Basketball players and the picturesque landscape in Malibu are among this artist's favorite subjects. "It's another way of expressing myself," Acker said. He has combined his love for art and basketball, and in April he'll be the first in his family to graduate from a four-year university. As a Proposition 48 nonqualifier out of Eisenhower High of Rialto, Acker redshirted his first year at Pepperdine. By graduating in four years, the NCAA will grant him a fifth year of eligibility. Then he hopes to graduate to the NBA. Acker has the talent. He averages 15.4 points and 6.8 rebounds. He shoots 37 percent from 3-point range. He has 13 blocks and averages 1.2 steals, 3.9 assists and 2.7 turnovers. He's led the Waves (12-8) in rebounding seven times this season, but his most impressive statistic is that he plays 37.5 minutes per game. "All you need to know about Acker is that (Paul) Westphal never takes him out," said one NBA scout. Acker's parents knew he was athletic as a youngster, but they found a hidden talent when they checked his homework each night. He used to doodle on his notebook covers, and Luther and Helen Acker were impressed. His artwork improved, and his parents encouraged more. His mom had just one request. "I told him he needed to be creative and draw some of his own ideas," Helen Acker said. "I saw his potential early. He was always so detail-oriented. It's just amazing to see how his art has flourished." Acker is innovative, whether it's on the court or in his art studio, sketching a series of unnamed superheroes or abstract self-portraits. He's working on a senior showcase scheduled for April, when he'll open his studio -- which houses an intricate drawing of a New York street corner and ceramic chessboard -- to the public. His improvement is a source of pride. "I didn't know anything but a No. 2 pencil when I came here," Acker said. "They've expanded my knowledge about everything. I've learned a lot." Acker, 21, didn't immediately decide to be an art major. He didn't have visions of playing at Pepperdine, either. He was set to attend a prep school in Maryland, like his brother, until visiting a three-day camp at Pepperdine in June 2001. Acker went just for the opportunity to work out, but Westphal offered him a scholarship at the camp's conclusion. He signed, becoming Westphal's first recruit. Acker wasn't unknown in hoops circles -- he was a McDonald's All-American -- but his status as a nonqualifier drove most programs away. During his mandatory redshirt year, he learned all about painting techniques and tools. And he regularly schooled teammates in practice. "He's barely scratched the surface of how good he can be," Westphal said. "He has such incredible gifts. He's got timing, he's got a great shooting touch, great hands and good body control. He's everything you look for in a player. "In my opinion, he still has a ways to go as far as intensity and consistency." Westphal coached Seattle and Phoenix in the NBA, and he believes Acker could play at that level. Acker has a strict work ethic and is well-liked. Pepperdine assistant coach Patrick Whitlock said if he had a daughter, he'd want her to date someone like Acker. Acker plays every game at the Firestone Fieldhouse in front of NBA scouts, most of whom are there to monitor senior forward Glen McGowan, who is averaging 20.9 points per game and could be selected in the NBA Draft. They certainly have reason to like Acker, too. Acker seems to be everywhere around the ball. With UNLV hanging around in a game last month, Acker got the ball, drove the baseline and scored to give Pepperdine a nine-point lead with 5 minutes left. It was the pivotal play the Waves needed down the stretch. He also scored 19 points and played 40 minutes in an 85-83 loss at UCLA. Out of necessity, Acker plays mostly shooting guard for Pepperdine, but he'd likely play point guard professionally. Until then, he cherishes the opportunity to rebound. "I love jumping over people," he said. He's in excellent shape, something his father always emphasized. Luther Acker coached his sons on traveling teams and monitored workouts that included long-distance running at a Colton track when they were 4 and 5. They'd also run on the beach or in the mountains. "Since they could basically walk, they were doing drills," Luther Acker said. "They always worked hard. They would run on the beach, or we'd run the mountains in San Bernardino. I'd take them to the top of the mountain and I'd wait for them at the 7-Eleven at the bottom." Acker thrives on sharing his art, and he gave all of his superhero drawings, of big, muscular characters, to his 3-year-old nephew, Alonso. His mother coaxes him to donate several of his drawings for the family collection at the end of each year. His grandmother has requested some, too. He's made numerous drawings, and among his favorites are a sketch of Michael Jordan and another of him and NBA point guard Stephon Marbury. His favorite is a painting of him and his brother, Chris, who plays basketball professionally in Portugal. "I've always told him, 'Don't limit yourself by what you see other people do. Do what makes you feel good within your own boundaries,"' Helen Acker said. "I'm pretty sure he's the type of artist that goes by what his heart tells him to do." His family and friends are eagerly anticipating the showcase. What won't be on display are sketchings of shoes -- those are still in the works. He's had visions of designing his own shoe since childhood. If he becomes an NBA star, he might get the chance to really design a shoe. "I'd love it man," Acker said. "That's the dream. It would be a dream come true if it does happen."