LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) - Louisville basketball fans probably hardly noticed that Akoy Agau was on the team during the 2013-14 season. Now they're going to get another look, and Agau hopes to make a better impression.
The 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward who played his freshman year at UofL, will end his college career where he started it, having joined the Cardinals' roster as a graduate transfer at the end of a circuitous journey plagued by injuries. In a weird twist, this will actually be his second go-around as a grad transfer. Not to mention his fourth coach and fourth program. And, oh yeah, he didn't play for two full years.
In his first stint at UofL, Agau barely made a blip on the statistical charts. He averaged 0.9 points and 1.1 rebounds while playing a total of 95 minutes for a veteran team that went 31-6 and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen before losing to Kentucky 74-69 in the Midwest Regional semifinal in Indianapolis.
"Louisville is where it all started for me," the 23-year-old Agau tweeted. "I'll be playing in the best conference in the country, along with receiving my MBA. I'm excited to be back and show Louisville what I should have the first time."
Agau, who speaks three languages (Dinka, Arabic and English), has had a strange basketball career - and life for that matter - to put it mildly. He was born in Sudan, then moved to Cairo, Egypt, as a child before coming to the U.S.
He went to high school in Omaha, Nebraska, and was ranked as a 4-star center when he accepted a scholarship offer from then-Louisville coach Rick Pitino. After his minimal contributions in 2013-14, he figured to earn more playing time in 2014-15 when Montrezl Harrell left for the NBA, but he played in only three games due to a sports hernia.
He received a medical redshirt and at the end of the first semester of his sophomore year transferred to Georgetown, where he sat out another season. In his lone season with the Hoyas, in 2016-17, he played in 32 games, starting eight, and averaged 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds.
He graduated with a double major in English and anthropology then transferred to SMU, where he averaged 5.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and shot 51.2 percent while appearing in 27 games this past season. He started eight of the last nine games for the Mustangs and scored a career-high 21 points with three rebounds and three assists in the American Athletic Conference Tournament against Connecticut.
Agau has one season of competition available after obtaining waivers to participate and plans to work on a master's degree in business. An NCAA waiver was approved to extend his eligibility clock to a rare sixth year and he obtained a transfer residence waiver so he could play immediately, since he transferred twice previously. He had two medical hardship waivers approved when he was an undergraduate.
Agau is the third graduate transfer recruited by new coach Chris Mack, following Samford guard Christen Cunningham and Richmond guard Khwan Fore. He's an important addition for the Cards because he gives them much-needed depth and experience up front. Agau, who has a 7-4 wingspan, is expected to compete for a starting job with sophomore Malik Williams.
"Akoy is a welcome addition," Mack said in a statement. "Having been plagued with injuries throughout his career it's been an up and down career for him. We are here to get him healthy and put the frustrations of the past in the past. As an experienced frontcourt player, Akoy brings a toughness and presence to our interior that's needed. He can score with his back to the basket and can rebound it on both ends of the floor. Our staff is excited to get a guy anxious to break out and have a memorable senior season."
Agau, who has been working out in Dallas since school ended, said he contacted Mack to see if Louisville might be interested in him. He said he has filed his financial aid paperwork with UofL and plans to be on campus when the summer academic sessions starts in July.
"I remember being impressed by the players Coach Mack had at Xavier," Agau says. "You could see how they got better and developed. Then on defense they ran this 1-3-1 zone that confused people and caused some problems, and I liked seeing that. On offense, he likes to get the ball in fast and run. I think it's a great fit for me and a good opportunity."
Agau's addition gives UofL 10 scholarship players for the coming season.
Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college basketball and football for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.