Three years and several turns of misfortune later, senior forward Akoy Agau is finally completely healthy and ready to return to the dominance he once displayed back in high school, the very dominance that caught Georgetown’s eye, bringing him to the Hilltop as a transfer from the University of Louisville in 2014.
After a grueling freshman year of injuries at Louisville and another year of sitting out due to NCAA transfer regulations, then-junior Agau was more than ready to play for the Georgetown men’s basketball team. As a touted transfer and inherently versatile player — as well as an ESPN Top 100 Recruit in his high school class — pundits and fans anticipated his skills to positively affect the success of the Hoyas in the 2015-16 season.
However, one night in October of last year, right before Midnight Madness — the team’s tricked-out pep rally of sorts — that anticipation quickly turned to disappointment. Agau tore his ACL and would miss the entire season, yet another circumstance that derailed the team’s expectations for the year.
“The fact that obviously I went down, various times other teammates went down, it’s not an excuse, but it was just kind of a rocky year,” Agau said in an interview with The Hoya.
For Agau, the injury meant more than just the derailing of his season and the loss of a potential key piece for the team. It also formed another chapter in a frustrating college career — a laundry list of playing time issues, injuries and missed opportunities.
“My college career has been rough,” Agau said. “Just from the success I had from high school and stuff that I thought was going to translate … that wasn’t the case.”
Coming to the Hilltop was supposed to be a new start for Agau and a chance to play at his top two dream schools: previously Louisville and now Georgetown.
“Injury: It’s been like the story of my college career,” Agau said. “The crazy thing [with the ACL injury] was we had just gotten back from a little break we had at home, and while I was home, my wisdom teeth were [sic], like, infected, so I had to get those taken out. So I took a week off, then it was that Friday [in October 2015] was my first day back up playing.”
Agau, in a situation representative of his college career thus far, tore his ACL in the most unexpected of ways.
“Four, five hours before Midnight Madness, we were having open gym because we had a lot of recruits in that weekend. And so, you know, we started playing, were winning a bunch of games, and then me and [junior guard L.J. Peak] were in a pick-and-roll situation,” Agau said of his injury.
“I remember just rolling to the rim, [Peak] throwing me the ball, my right leg kind of planting and my momentum still kind of carrying me and one of my teammates just kind of … you know, I’ve been hit a lot harder on the basketball court, but just a slight bump and my knees just weren’t really in the right position, and I remember just it buckling and turning my ACL and just falling to the ground in pain.”
In one freak accident, the entire trajectory of the season changed. Compounded with injuries to former player Paul White — who missed the whole season — and senior center Bradley Hayes — who missed most of the end of the season — the Hoyas were without three of their key players.
Throughout a 15-18, 7-11 Big East season, the team struggled with chemistry issues and both interior and perimeter defense, areas that Agau — now completely healthy — specializes in.
“I’ve always been a defensive-minded player. Also the type of player who does whatever the coach needs me. And obviously defensively I have a pretty good reaction time with blocking shots, so that’s a big thing, protecting the rim,” Agau said of his play style.
“I hadn’t always been able to guard one through five, but that’s something that I’ve definitely developed through my college career while I’ve been healthy. So now having the coach put me at the five next year in a kind of small lineup, and trust that I can switch one through five and guard from the point guard to the center on the team and just having that confidence, I think it’ll be good.”
With Agau as a defensive centerpiece, the added versatility, especially in today’s changing and evolving game, affords the Hoyas an opportunity to address the issues that plagued them for much of last year. The junior forward joins graduate transfer guard Rodney Pryor, junior transfer guard Jonathan Mulmore and freshman guard Jagan Mosely as this year’s new additions. As the lone big man in a class of guards, Agau looks to add a different dynamic offensively.
“I love to set up my teammates; [I am a] ‘pass-first mentality’ type of guy, love getting offensive rebounds, getting the team extra possessions,” Agau said. “And then I stretch the floor whether it’s five out, playing in the post, five out with teammates, or knocking down open midrange and three point shots, so just kind of a little bit of everything.”
A player like Agau, a do-it-all player in the Draymond Green mold, is especially valuable in the modern NCAA — a league that now emphasizes long-range shooting at every position and complex defensive schemes. Moreover, Head Coach John Thompson III’s Princeton offense highly relies on a passing big man, a role that Agau can fill like no one else on the team.
However, another key role that Agau fills, one that most pundits and fans do not see, is that of a veteran presence, which has been around a championship-winning coach in Rick Pitino of Louisville. Last year, criticism swirled around the team in the wake of its rocky season. Beyond just personnel injuries and coaching issues, the Hoyas faced criticism of their chemistry and leadership.
“While we were close last year, I think guys are really making a bigger leap forward to trusting each other more and trying to have a really good connection where it translates in every aspect of not just basketball, but even off the court,” Agau said of the team’s chemistry. “The stronger it is off the court, then it’s going to be definitely strong on the court … everyone has bought in or is taking the step to buying in.”
While preseason polls and media power rankings have thus far completely overlooked the Hoyas, Agau’s journey is, in a way, a microcosm of the team’s experiences.
With the greatest of expectations and disappointments both in tow for the senior and the rest of the team, together they now have a chance to put Georgetown basketball back into the national spotlight after a nearly four-year absence. The 2012-13 season was the last time the Hoyas were ranked in top 20 of any major poll.
“I’ve always had a fire in my belly when I play the game of basketball,” Agau said. “But let’s just say I’m going to let those [doubters] keep sleeping. They’ll wake up on their own when they turn the TV on and they see what my teammates and I are going to be doing.”
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