Former NAU forward Ajang Aguek transfers to DII Lander University

Photo courtesy of NAU Athletics

Former NAU sophomore forward Ajang Aguek announced he is transferring to Lander University in Greenwood, South Carolina. Lander University is a Division II school that competes in the Peach Belt Conference. 

“Thank you to all the coaches that believed in me and recruited me,'” Aguek announced in a tweet. “After my recruitment journey I have decided to play for Lander University.”

Aguek’s decision comes nearly two months after entering the transfer portal on March 14. While his decision to take his talents across the country took some time, Lander University was on his radar for a while. On April 12, Aguek posted a photo on his Instagram story of him wearing a Lander Bearcats uniform.

The move to Lander University may seem like an unexpected choice for Aguek, but the school has an interesting connection to NAU that put the Bearcats at the forefront of landing Aguek, who averaged 2.3 points and 1.5 rebounds per game last season for NAU.

Darius Carter, assistant men’s basketball coach at Lander University, was a graduate assistant at NAU men’s basketball from 2016 to 2018. His history at NAU gave him reason to follow the Lumberjacks, leading to his knowledge of Aguek and him being able to contact him and NAU head coach Shane Burcar.

“I was the one who reached out to him initially,” Carter said. “I remembered him from following NAU’s games over the last few years so I was very familiar with him and his game.”

Aguek joined NAU at the start of the 2019-2020 season after Carter’s time at NAU. However, Carter explained that having coached some of Aguek’s teammates in those years helped pave the way for them to connect, set up a recruiting visit and get him to commit to the program.

“He came for a visit about a month ago, Carter said. [He] loved his visit and [we] recruited him super hard after that. Our head coach [Omar Wattad] is a great recruiter and sealed the deal. [He] showed him the many benefits of coming to Lander.”

Aguek, who played at Ironwood High School in Glendale, previously told The Lumberjack that he was mostly in contact with Division II schools that were close to home such as Northwest Nazarene University,Western New Mexico and St. Martin’s. He also mentioned Arizona Christian University, a school in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

The vast distance from Arizona to South Carolina was a big sticking point, but Carter and the coaching staff made sure Aguek would feel at home on the East Coast.

“Everybody involved just wanted to feel that it was a good situation and that he’d be taken care of not only on the court but off the court as well,” Carter said.

Another sticking point for Aguek was his desire to have more opportunities on the floor. Last season, Aguek averaged six fewer minutes than he did in his career-best 2020-2021 season. Overall, his stats fell closer to his freshman year numbers.

Aguek told The Lumberjack that he wished he played more at NAU. Carter said that was also something Aguek made sure to bring up, saying that he wanted the opportunity to showcase his skill set.

His hopes to show his talent lead to Aguek’s ultimate goal, playing basketball professionally. Carter made it a point to provide Aguek with ways he can work toward achieving that goal. 

“Ajang wants to play professionally after college so we gave him a detailed plan of some things that he would have to do to be a pro,” Carter said.” Our head coach has coached multiple guys who have gone overseas and played professionally and that was intriguing to Ajang.”

Aguek joins a Lander Bearcats program that finished sixth in the Peach Belt Conference standings last regular season with a 14-15 overall record and an 8-10 conference record. 

The Bearcats upset No. 3 seeded Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia, 83-79, in the quarterfinals of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament. Lander University’s season ended in the semifinals against No. 25 Flagler College 67-62

Aguek’s size, speed and versatility on the defensive end of the ball is something Carter loved most about him and he feels the Division I transfer will mesh perfectly with the Bearcats’ style of play.

“His defense and motor is going to keep him on the floor,” Carter said. “We showed how the many ways we can use him offensively. It all has to be earned but we know he brings it day in and day out so that’s going to get him plenty of playing time. You can’t sit that on the bench. Coach Burcar told us that he was very high character and does everything you ask so we know we won’t have any issues from that standpoint.”

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