While questions surround Louisville’s football recruiting due to conference affiliation, one sport that conference realignment will not impact is, of course, basketball. Coach Rick Pitino has his eyes set on several of the country’s top prospects for 2013 and 2014, including several big man prospects. As reported by Mike Hughes of InsideTheVille.com, Pitino has added a new big man to his wish list, offering 6-9, 230 lb Sudanese big man Akoy Agau a scholarship. Agau is ranked as a top-100 prospect in the class of 2013 and a 4-star recruit by Rivals, 247sports, and ESPN (who has him ranked highest at 46th overall), while Scout has him ranked as a 3-star prospect and 17th best center in the class.
Agau’s non-basketball story is quite an amazing one. In a story written by Omaha, Nebraska (where Agau plays his high school ball) journalist Leo Adam Biga, Agau and his mother remember their struggles as they attempted to survive in and later flee from war-stricken Sudan. The family witnessed many people, including several loved ones, die and would see first-hand as villages and forests were burned to the ground. In one instance of fleeing from the madness, when he was three, Agau’s mother carried him on her back along with an infant sibling in her arms as they fled for months risking starvation, animal attacks, disease, and further violence. The family was eventually able to flee to the United States where Agau’s father found work at a meatpacking plant in Denison, Iowa. It is a great story and worth a read. Through all that he has been through, Agau has learned to take nothing for granted and work for everything he wants. He also has developed a maturity far beyond his years.
As a player, ESPN describes him as an athletic, defensive-minded prospect with an offensive game that is still raw. He is also a shot-blocking specialist, having 14 in one game, as Biga reported. Pitino has offered scholarships to 2013 big men Moses Kingsley, Kentan Facey, and according to Scout, has expressed interest in seven footer Joel Embiid as well. All of these big men also have games that could be described as athletic, defensive-minded (especially shot blocking), with an offensive game that is a work in progress. They are also all foreign prospects that started playing basketball later in their lives and have tons of potential that remains untapped. It appears that Pitino knows exactly what type of prospect he wants playing in the frontcourt for him. After the way Gorgui Dieng has developed in two years, can anyone blame him? Pitino has done an outstanding job developing Gorgui, another prospect who was defensive minded, athletic, and had a raw offensive game, but great attitude. Oh, and he can block a shot or two as well. He sees these prospects as hard-working, appreciative, and mature young men that will be coachable and successful on the court. As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It is interesting the direction the coach has gone since he had David Padgett, Derrick Caracter, and Samardo Samuels man the paint for the Cards. While no one can argue how valuable Padgett was, he was better offensively than defensively and due to his knee problems, had trouble running the floor. Caracter was a big man that wanted to play streetball and score any way he could while being downright un-coachable. Samuels was mainly a pure scorer while struggling on the glass, defensive side of the ball, and running the court. Players like Dieng and the prospects listed above are much better suited for Pitino’s style of play than Samuels, Caracter, and arguably even Padgett. They are players who run the court great, are coachable, and are forces on the defensive side of the ball. Maybe the coach has found his perfect big man type of prospect. Now, if an offensively skilled, top 5 big man like Chris Walker wanted to commit to Louisville, chances are the coach would not say no. Yet, he seems to have discovered his favorite type of prospect, and fans should expect prospects like this continue to emerge on Louisville recruiting boards as long as Pitino is here.
Louisville is not the only team to have taken notice of Agau and certainly not the first. The talented big has offers from several high major programs, including Florida, Missouri, West Virginia, UCONN, Georgetown, and others. In fact, if the Cards are to get serious abouot Agau, the staff is going to have to work overtime to fend off UCONN and G’town. He once referred to UCONN as his “dream school” and recently listed G’town, where he has been told he would be used in a Jeff Green type of role as a combo forward, as his leader.
On film, he displays the ability to run the court and block shots, but Agau appears more offensively sound than what ESPN makes him out to be. He also has a nice little jumper, above-average post moves, and can even handle the ball well for a big man. For someone who has not played basketball the majority of his life, he is pretty well rounded. Now, and this may be unfairly stereotyping, but these highlights are from his high school days in Nebraska, an area not exactly regarded for basketball, and he is likely not playing Big East-level competition, to put it lightly. Listening to the young man speak is impressive as well. He speaks perfect English without a hint of an accent (seriously, if I had not mentioned him as Sudanese, you would not even know he was from out of the country) and speaks with a confidence and candor that is very unlike many 18-year olds.
Agau may or may not come to Louisville, but he is an excellent prospect who would surely shine under Pitino. If he does not, Pitino clearly has an idea of the type of player he wants. You can check out Agau in action and see an interview with him below.