THIS GIRL'S ON A MISSION: Junior Post Agbuke Will Start Law School in MayMarch 7, 2014
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
School has always come easy for Sune Agbuke.
"In high school, I didn't really have to work at it," said the 6-foot-4 Baylor junior post. "I got to college, and I realized how much time I didn't have; that I had to be better at it. And I really enjoy school. I like learning random things, whether it's about school or not. I just like learning. That's always been fun to me."
That attitude might be tested come May 12, when Agbuke starts her first quarter semester of Baylor Law School. She graduates that same month with a philosophy, pre-law major, a feat she accomplished in just three years.
"My initial concern was that she may give up basketball," said Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey, whose ninth-ranked Lady Bears (26-4) will open the Big 12 Championship with a matchup against the Kansas-Kansas State winner at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Oklahoma City, Okla. "But she says no, basketball is a priority for her. She wants to play. And I told her, your senior year, you can't come up here tired all the time. You're going to have to figure out how to make it work."
Something tells me that won't be a problem for Agbuke, who has a way of figuring out things pretty quickly.
At Cornerstone Christian in San Antonio, Texas, she was a two-time TCAL all-star and led the Warriors to back-to-back state championships and a 67-8 record her final two seasons. She averaged 11.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.4 blocks as a senior, and also played middle blocker on a volleyball team that finished second in state.
After going to a Christian school "my whole life," Agbuke said Baylor was "never an option growing up." But then she got an offer she couldn't refuse; the chance to play for a national championship contender.
"I kind of weighed my options," said Agbuke, who also considered Miami, Fla., Tulsa and Oral Roberts. "Going to another school that's not as great as Baylor and playing right away, compared to sitting for a couple years, was that worth it? But knowing that I had a chance to get a national championship, I was like, 'OK, I guess I could fit there.'''
It didn't take long. Even though she was little more than a practice player, Agbuke was a freshman reserve on the 40-0 national champions in 2012.
"It was just amazing, especially looking back now and knowing how hard it is to get one," she said, referring to last year's Sweet 16 loss to Louisville. "I just have so much respect for the class that did it. It was just great to be along for the ride. It was an amazing opportunity, something that will always be one of my fondest memories."
Playing behind two-time National Player of the Year Brittney Griner, Agbuke averaged just 1.7 points, 1.7 rebounds and 6.3 minutes per game through her first two seasons.
But with Griner and four other seniors gone from a 34-2 team that was ranked No. 1 all year, Agbuke had to step up in a big way. She is averaging 6.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks for a Lady Bear team that won its fourth consecutive Big 12 championship.
"I think what was hard was in the two years Brittney was here, and I didn't play, I didn't shoot a lot," she said. "In high school, I used to shoot all the time. I have to tell myself, 'OK, you can score, because you don't have someone 6-8 right behind you.'''
The positive aspect of facing the 6-8 Griner every day in practice for two years is that Agbuke is never intimidated by the size of other post players. She's seen big.
Mulkey's message was simple: "Be who you are."
"Don't worry about the comparisons of what's played at that position before you," she said. "Be who you are, play to your strengths. Sune is a big presence in there. You make sure, when a guard penetrates and your teammate is beaten, that you're there to help. Make sure you get every defensive rebound you can. What Sune has done a good job of is getting you some offensive rebounds. She may not be getting put-backs and scores, but she's giving you another opportunity."
Mulkey blames herself for not playing her 6-4 junior post for most of the second half in a game the Lady Bears nearly lost at home to Oklahoma. "That changes everything you do," she said.
"She's had to learn how to fight through foul trouble, and I think she's done better with that later in the year," Mulkey said. "Right now, she's fighting through fatigue and the aching of the Achilles' on both feet. She's just giving us everything she has within her own abilities. She doesn't pretend to be somebody she's not. She just wants to contribute."
That's what she did in Tuesday's 70-54 win at Iowa State that clinched a share of the Big 12 championship. Agbuke finished a point shy of a double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds.
"This feels like my first one," she said of her fifth overall Big 12 title (regular season and tournaments). "Those other ones were really great, but I felt lucky. This time, I was on the floor and was making plays; I was helping and turning it over. Just to be a part of it, that felt really good."
The biggest issue with starting law school in May is that Agbuke will miss the Baylor Sports Ministry's trip to Africa for the first time in three years. She went on her first mission trip to Kenya at the end of her freshman year in 2012 and then went back to Kenya and Zambia with last year's group.
"It breaks my heart that I can't go this year," she said. "There is probably nothing that I think about more than Africa and just how much it shaped the way that I look at the world, look at basketball, look at school, my relationship with God. I would say going on those trips was the defining moment in my life."
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