For the first time in Tad Boyle’s tenure with Colorado, men’s basketball reached across the Atlantic Ocean to recruit next year’s incoming freshmen and sophomore ballers. And, from the looks of it, the two Eastern Europeans will add great depth to a struggling herd of Buffalo.
Incoming freshman Thomas Akyazili hails from Antwerp and plays for its professional team, the Giants, and Belgium’s U-18 national team. He played his high school years as a shooting guard and has a lot to offer his new team. According to a scouting report on ESPN Insider, Akyazili excels at shooting while coming off of a screen, which is no doubt an area that CU struggled with this past year. They made only 43.6 percent of their shots on the year with an average scoring margin of plus-0.8 points.
Additionally, the 6-foot-2 Belgian has a knack for ball-handling and passing—another thing the Buffs struggled with this season. For the year, the Buffs averaged 13.2 turnovers a game with a margin of minus-1.9 turnovers over their opponents. They also only had 11.8 assists a game, which left them with a 0.9 assist-to-turnover ratio.
While it’s difficult to say for sure whether or not Akyazili will make an impact right away, he certainly has the potential to make a big impact on the way the Buffs run their offense. He has the skill to alter Colorado’s ball-handling struggles, as well as give them the edge on the quality of shots that they take, which weren’t exactly high-quality this year.
“We think he’s going to be a good player,” Associate Head Coach Jean Prioleau said. “But it remains to be seen. We evaluated him and we recruited him, and now when he gets here, he’s going to understand what it means to play at this level. I think we think he can.”
Furthermore, he has the chance to add some depth back to a team that’s still shaken up from the sudden departure of sophomores Jaron Hopkins and Dustin Thomas. Though these two weren’t necessarily efficient shooters by any means, Akyazili has the talent needed to make up for at least one of their absences, possibly both.
More importantly, the scouting report described him as a threat behind the arc, which is something this Buffs team has starved for throughout Boyle’s time with Colorado. With the addition of transfer guard Josh Fortune—who will be activated next season—and Akyazili, the Buffaloes may finally fill that gap in their overall offensive game.
He’s also considered to be one of the top two European guards available for next year, so that’s something. And, thanks to new NCAA rules that state that non-salaried overseas prospects can obtain full collegiate eligibility, Akyazili will be allowed to begin his American collegiate career next year.
“His impact will be determined on how well he’s prepared coming in, which will always be a transition for younger players,” Prioleau. “Will he be able to transition well and make an impact right away? I think at some level he will, it’s just how much of an impact?”
Moving on. On the other end of the height spectrum, 6-foot-8 power forward Kenan Guzonjic of Bosnia and Herzegovina will be adding his own set of specific skills. Though he’ll be coming in as a sophomore from Midland Junior College in Texas, he should be able to help out the team tremendously as well.
According to the scouting report released by Colorado, Guzonjic can add his own three-point firepower and has the ability to make an impact in the low post, which again were some areas that the Buffs struggled with this year. The three-point ability for the Buffaloes should definitely go up next season.
“He’s very skilled,” forwards coach Mike Rohn said. “He’s really skilled just in his ability to pass and shoot and it’s going to make an immediate impact at that position, at the forward position. He can play either one of the post positions. He’ll help us a lot.”
24/7 Sports ranks Guzonjic as the 23rd-best junior college recruit in the country. In his one active year with Midland, he averaged 8.4 points and 5.4 rebounds in his 28 games played. He shot 45.9 percent on the year, including 31.3 percent from downtown.
“He can make some (threes) and he’s going to be shooting some shots, but he’s a big guy so he’s not going to be taking a ton of them,” Rohn said. “He just needs to be able to be like (Xavier Johnson) a little bit. Sprinkle some in here and there and make his guy come out and respect him from the three.”
Guzonjic will be joining the team in late May or early June, while Akyazili will have to stay overseas throughout the summer months before joining the Colorado squad in August.
Contact CU Independent Basketball Writer Alissa Noe at email@example.com.