Thomas Akyazili's basketball season pretty much can be summed up in much the same manner as the overall picture for the Colorado Buffaloes.
It began with the encouraging promise of building off a solid 2015-16 season. Instead, like his teammates, Akyazili has weathered one disappointment after another.
Months ago, Akyazili was expected to take a significant step forward for the Buffaloes after showing signs as a freshman last year he might eventually evolve into a dependable backcourt contributor. It hasn't happened. And while head coach Tad Boyle continues to rave about the competitive attitude Akyazili has maintained at practice throughout his frustrating season, the sophomore guard readily admits the 2016-17 season has not at all unfolded according to plan.
"I'm not getting a lot of minutes and I'm not playing well, so it's like practice is where I can still show what I've got," Akyazili said. "I just go out and give everything I've got. It's been frustrating for me here so far with my shooting percentage and everything, but at the end of the day I think practices are going good. I'm still a better player than I was at the beginning of the year."
Akyazili appeared in all 34 games for the Buffs last year. While he struggled shooting-wise — he finished with an overall field goal percentage of .325 with a .288 mark on 3-pointers — Akyazili still turned in a decent assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.71 while often displaying the sort of court vision that could have made him the on-court quarterback for CU's second unit.
However, Akyazili has been unable to discover his shooting touch all season, and his minutes have dwindled as freshmen Deleon Brown and Bryce Peters have surpassed him in the rotation of off-the-bench guards.
Akyazili is shooting just .302 from the field and has encountered altogether improbable struggles from long range, going just 1-for-21 all season on 3-pointers. Akyazili's assist-to-turnover rate has dropped to 1.5, and he has collected more than half of his 39 assists this season in his best four games of the year.
To his credit, Boyle says Akyazili's season-long struggles have not compromised his daily attitude.
"Thomas Akyazili has the team-first mentality you really appreciate as a coach," Boyle said. "It's been a rough year for him. The way he has shot the ball, the way he has performed, the way he's played relative to what his expectations were coming in, and maybe what our expectations were of him.
"I love him as a kid. I love him as a competitor. He's a team guy. He's been down, but you couldn't tell by the way he practices. He hasn't pouted and has come to work for him every day. Hopefully that will pay off for him. When you see a guy work as hard as Thomas has worked, you want to see him succeed."
Given Akyazili's struggles, combined with the ascent of Brown and Peters with more depth arriving at guard for CU next season, and it is easy to wonder if Akyazili might be tempted to return to his native Belgium, where he could immediately play for a paycheck. Akyazili, though, said that remains a consideration for down the road.
"I haven't thought about that yet," Akyazili said. "I'm just working game to game and I'm just concentrating on this season right now."