Akoy Agau just wants to play basketball. In the last few years, however, the world didn’t seem too keen on granting him his wish.
Since winning his fourth straight state championship at Central High School in Nebraska, Agau has barely been able to get on the hardwood. A limited role at Louisville and a devastating knee injury before his junior season at Georgetown left Agau with few competitive minutes over the past three years.
Out of high school, Agau was a highly sought after four-star prospect. He received offers from top programs including West Virginia, Nebraska, Georgetown, and Louisville. Enticed by the offer from the previous year’s national champion, Agau chose to join coach Rick Pitino at Louisville. Yet he soon faced a variety of obstacles and struggled to find a place in the Cardinals’ skilled and competitive frontcourt rotation.
During his freshman year at Louisville, Agau averaged just five minutes per game. Later in the season, he was indefinitely suspended from the team because of what was described by Pitino as a “very minor” attitude issue, but then returned to the team later in the season. Before his sophomore year began, Agau suffered a sports hernia and had surgery during that summer. He averaged 3.7 minutes per game in his sophomore year before deciding to transfer to Georgetown midway through the season.
While ineligible for the second half of the 2014-2015 season and the beginning of the 2015-2016 campaign, Agau promised to be an exciting defensive prospect to help fill out Georgetown’s frontcourt rotation.
Then, on the night before Midnight Madness, the power forward tore his ACL while practicing, and was ruled out for the entirety of the 2015-2016 season. The injury was frustrating for Agau, who had been hoping to make an immediate impact on the team, “Transferring in, and then getting hurt right away… it was very hard to just sit out there,” he said.
When Coach John Thompson III initially recruited Agau to Georgetown, he attempted to convince the four-star recruit that he would be the team’s next Jeff Green. Green, along with Roy Hibbert, led the 2007 squad to the Final Four– the furthest the Hoyas have advanced in the NCAA tournament since 1985.
Agau welcomed the comparison. In his time at Georgetown, Green was known for doing a little bit of everything. Scoring, defending, and rebounding were all critical components of his game. Now, Agau looks to recreate that playing style and contribute in a similar manner.
“Jeff was a guy who Coach Thompson had play a lot of different positions for him. Obviously, I want to make the statement that I can do a lot of different things on the floor—rebound, block shots, every once in a while get a rebound and push the ball on the court,” he said.
To help round out his game, Agau told the Voice that he spent a lot of time working on rebounding over the summer, which he hopes will address the Hoyas’ struggles on the boards last season. Last year, Georgetown tied for sixth in the Big East in rebounds per game (35.8), and the coaching staff recognizes the team’s need to rebound more effectively in order to to compete in the Big East this year.
“We’ve had a little struggle sometimes with rebounding for the past few years on these teams,” said Agau. “So that’s something our coaches this year are really [putting] an emphasis on and making sure that we’re rebounding, blocking our guy out before we get the ball … Rebounding is a big part to winning games,”
In addition to rehabbing his knee and working on his rebounding, Agau has also worked on making sure his body is in proper shape for the upcoming season.
“A lot of it was my right knee, definitely strengthening that. But it’s also working on the other leg, making sure it’s equally as strong,” he said. When asked if he thinks he is fully recovered from his ACL tear, Agau seemed confident. “Yes, I’m 100%. I’m out here practicing … As of right now, God willingly, if I don’t get hurt, I’m available and 100%,” he said.
Fully healed, Agau is ready to make an impact, and Thompson knows it. When asked how long it will take Agau to ease into the game, Thompson said, “[Agau]’s anxious. We had a scrimmage last week, and he was like a high school freshman out there in terms of how excited he was and how jittery he was.”
When Kris Jenkins’ shot dropped through the net for Villanova in the national championship, the Big East found itself in a renewed place of prominence. The spotlight will be shining bright on every team in the conference this year, and Agau feels that the competition will be stronger than ever. “This conference is going to be better than it was last year. I think it’s pretty scary to say that,” he said.
Agau’s long-awaited Hoyas debut may be nearing, but the forward will have to fight for his spot in the rotation. In a frontcourt loaded with skilled players including Isaac Copeland, Marcus Derrickson, and Reggie Cameron, Agau will look to distinguish himself from his teammates with his defense and hustle.
Thompson knows that Agau is a player willing to lay it all out for the team.
“He goes a hundred miles an hour, and so he’s one of those kids who you say ‘slow down’ and he says ‘okay, Coach’ and then he takes off at a hundred miles an hour,” Thompson said.
Despite the Hoyas’ fierce competition this season, the forward’s tough transition from one program to another, and the incessant injuries, Agau is ready to get back in the game. He’s ready to be a part of a team that is competing for a national championship, but he knows it won’t come easy.
“I think we have a chance to do something special, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Agau said.
This Saturday, Agau will play basketball again. He will play for a team that needs to prove itself. He will play for a team that many people have written off and forgotten about. For Agau, the critics are wrong to ignore his play and his team, and he’s been waiting for this exact moment to prove it.