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bsn BSN: Akyazili just what the doctor ordered (and more) for Colorado Basketball

Discussion in 'CU Buffs Newsroom' started by RSSBot, Jan 19, 2016.

  1. RSSBot

    RSSBot News Junkie

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    When Thomas Akyazili took his official visit to CU last winter, he bore witness to an 82-54 shellacking of the Buffaloes at the hands of the Arizona Wildcats. In an interview with Thomas after the game, I asked him if he saw a team he could help right away, the ever confident Akyazili, in his own words, said yes.

    So it comes as no surprise that after back-to-back games playing down-the-stretch minutes and helping the Buffaloes to two huge victories, Akyazili again answered affirmatively when asked if he expected to be contributing this much, this early in his career.

    “Yes, yes, that was my goal, just to contribute to the team,” he explained. “I think my strengths can contribute in a lot of different ways, not always the same ways. Not just scoring and assisting but just different things, that’s what I’m trying to do.”

    I must admit, when I asked Thomas that question last February, scoring and assisting were the areas I had in mind. The Buffaloes had just put together a game where they shot 38 percent from the floor and turned the ball over twice as many times as they assisted it. If the Belgian guard could’ve helped the Buffaloes in those two areas he would have been a welcome addition right then and there.

    Fast forward 11 months and we’re halfway through Akyazili’s freshman season. The good news: he’s helped the Buffs in those categories, shooting 40 percent from behind the arc and boasting a 2.5-to-1 assist to turnover ratio (4-to-1 in Pac-12 play). The better news, like he said above: he’s helping the team in a bunch more ways.

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    Energy


    One of the marks of successful teams in basketball is energy off of the bench, Akyazili has brought energy to the floor in heaps for Colorado.

    When “Tommy” hits the hardwood, the pace of the game changes immediately for the Buffaloes, his quick hands, nagging defense and affinity for pushing the ball in transition brings a whole new element to the team and rubs off on all five players on the court.

    “I think just like bringing a little bit of energy off of the bench, I think that’s a very important thing,” Akyazili said. “I try to give energy to my teammates, too. A few games ago [Tre’Shaun Fletcher] told me he loved it when I picked up somebody full-court, and it gave him a lot of energy so I try to do things like that as much as I can.”

    Toughness


    Whether he’s going chest to chest with an opponent, wrapping up his latest cut or talking a little trash on the court, Akyazili brings a toughness, a grit, a certain swagger to the Buffaloes that has been missing in recent years.

    Exhibit A: After forcing Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate, Gary Payton II, into a wild, off-the-mark shot on Wednesday night, the Belgian freshman was seen getting right up into Payton’s ear.

    “They don’t know me and when I guard them they think they can do things like — he was pulling my arm the whole time — he thinks he can do things like that,” Akyazili said of what that was all about. “You can’t just let that go, I think you have to do something otherwise they’ll do things like that all of the time.”

    Head coach Tad Boyle was asked if he brings a different edge to the team.

    “No question, no question and, you know, we knew that,” Boyle said. “We had seen one of his tweets from last summer which gave us a little insight into how he views himself. We knew Thomas was a tough kid that had a competitive edge to him when he came in here, which, I think, serves him well as he progresses through his freshman year. I love the track that he’s on and we just need him to continue doing what he’s doing.”

    Shortly after the talk he was giving to “GP II,” Payton gave the young point guard an obvious shove while garnering for position on an inbounds play, Akyazili simply stood his ground and smiled.

    “I think it’s really important because basketball is a mental game, too, so if you show that you fear someone, it’s not good for you,” he explained. “I try to be tough every time because I think that’s very important.”

    Defense


    The latest and possibly most important development in his game, Akyazili has stepped up his defense in a big way, there’s a reason Boyle had him guarding Payton on Wednesday after he had torched the Buffs for 26 and 15 in the first 36 minutes of the game.

    “Before I came here, that was one of my weakest points, defense,” he admitted. “I think I have improved a lot in my defensive game, I’m trying to come out and guard everyone as hard as I can.”

    As Boyle will tell you, defense is all about effort and effort is no issue for the international freshman. He’s also not one to back down from a challenge, already thinking about getting his chance on the Pac-12’s leading scorer, Andrew Andrews, this week.

    “It’s something I look forward too, just because he is such a good player,” he said. “We’ll see if I can do it.”

    It’s never been tough to figure out Tad Boyle’s favorite type of players, the guys he “would go to war with” as he likes to say, it’s the players who do the things listed above. . . and the things listed below.

    “It is and I said this in November and December,” Boyle began. “You could see [Akyazili’s progression] happening because of the way he approaches practice every day, the attitude that he brings to the gym every day, he’s watching film with coaches, he’s asking questions, he’s upset when he makes mistakes, he’s very self-critical and he’s going to learn quickly with he way he approaches things.”

    Boyle will admit that his expectations of freshman are pretty low, but Akyazili has surpassed his and the entirety of the fan base’s with ease after just 18 games. As the trajectory of his progression continues to trend up, so will his minutes, and while one of those two things has a ceiling, the other one is nowhere in sight.

    Ryan Koenigsberg
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  2. Shldr2Shldr

    Shldr2Shldr Club Member Club Member

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    The attitude is probably the single biggest thing this team has been missing since Spencer went down. I hope its rubbing off on the entire team, because that kind of attitude and effort on the defensive end could turn this team from a pac-12 competitor to champion.
     

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