With no time to waste, Teeng Akol signed his scholarship papers on Friday and is already on campus, preparing for college life with all of USF's other incoming freshman. In between orientation sessions on Sunday, the talented power forward spoke with USFBullsEYE.com about his path to the Bulls.
USFBullsEYE.com: I know you were born in Sudan, so tell us a little about how you came to America.
Teeng Akol: Actually, I grew up in Egypt. I didn't start playing basketball until I was 14 or 15 years old. I came to the United States on a scholarship to Our Savior school in New York and then went to IMG (in Bradenton) for my senior year. At first, the whole thing was tough. I definitely got homesick a little bit, but I have big goals, so I stayed here to learn the game.
Q: Tell us about those goals, do you mean you've been focused on playing Division I basketball?
Akol: No. My goal is bigger than that. I want to go pro. But, like my Mom always tells me, you've got to start somewhere and this is the next step.
Q: West Virginia, Indiana and Kentucky all were also involved to some extent in your recruiting. Was there one thing in particular that stood out about USF that made you decide on the Bulls?
Akol: It was just . . . there were bigger schools, but this is where I really felt they needed me. I'll be trying to change the program. You've got to start from the bottom and I like that. We can make it big time here in the Big East. I really like that idea – do you know what I mean? (USF) started talking to me last year. I didn't make my decision, but I was always looking at them. This year is going to be different. People are going to be surprised. And I like Coach (Stan) Heath. He's a very cool guy.
Q: After you committed to USF back in mid-May, you still had to take and pass the standardized test a month later in order to enroll. What was that period like for you?
Akol: It was very tough to wait. I was very nervous taking the test, but I did a lot to get prepared for it and I passed it. Now I'm at USF doing orientation, learning about my classes and visiting the dorm rooms. I'm ready to go . . . to start on the weights, lifting to get stronger for the Big East.
Q: People I've talked with said that you made some significant strides while at IMG. Do you feel you've gotten that much better during your time there?
Akol: Definitely. I really didn't know that much about the game when I was growing up and playing in Egypt. I'm still learning things now. At IMG, I learned a lot about basketball that I never thought about before. I really worked on my face-up shooting, learning to stop and shoot. I've gotten a lot better in the past year. No doubt about it.
Q: What has Coach Heath and his staff told you about what they expect from you as a freshman?
Akol: They just tell me they want me to be aggressive and always play hard – do everything I can to help the team win games in the Big East. It's going to happen. Like I said before, I wanted to go to somebody that really needs help – that really needs me. Right now, I'm going to work to put on weight and be strong and ready to play.