Thomas Akyazili wishes his college basketball experiment had proven more successful. Yet he nonetheless is excited to return home and pursue the chance to play for a paycheck.
After two seasons with coach Tad Boyle’s Colorado Buffaloes, Akyazili, a sophomore guard from Belgium, decided to leave the program. The parting was amicable — Akyazili has participated in postseason workouts with his now-former teammates — and recently he sat down with BuffZone.com to discuss his decision.
“I talked with coach after the season and he understood,” Akyazili said. “I think it’s the best thing for me, going home and starting a professional career. I’m looking at different options to see what’s best of me.”
Akyazili is completing the school year but has hired an agent with an eye on landing on a European professional team, not necessarily in his native Belgium. As he has the past few summers, Akyazili will compete for his home country at the European Championships.
Akyazili showed signs of potentially serving as a solid point guard off the bench during his freshman season of 2015-16, averaging 3.7 points in 33 games while posting a 1.71 assist-to-turnover ratio.
However, Akyazili struggled from the field that year, shooting .288 from 3-point range and just .325 overall. That problem worsened this past season, with Akyazili posting a .292 field goal percentage with a 1-for-21 mark on 3-pointers. After averaging 14 minutes per game during nonconference play, Akyazili played just 8.2 minutes per game during the Pac-12 Conference schedule while watching freshmen Deleon Brown and Bryce Peters surpass him in the guard rotation.
All told it was a frustrating year for Akyazili, who could never harness the energy and shooting touch he often displayed at practice.
“I think practices went well, all-around,” Akyazili said. “We have a rating of every practice just so we can see if we’ve done well or not, and I think I did really, really good this season in practice. It’s frustrating that it didn’t come in games.
“It’s a little of a double feeling. I’m excited to go back home and start a new chapter in my life. At the same time, I’m leaving with a feeling there could’ve been more. I love this program. I love the coaches. I love my teammates. After two years, I built a life here too. It’s tough. But basketball-wise I think it’s the best decision.”
With the postseason departures of Akyazili and Peters, the Buffs were able to add Serbian guard Lazar Nikolic and Minnesota point guard McKinley Wright to a 2017 freshman class that already was the highest-rated of Boyle’s seven-season tenure.