LOS ANGELES – Max Agboncapolo didn’t have the kind of offseason that foreshadows a breakout season. Shortly after the start of the summer, the USC wing landed awkwardly in practice and broke its leg. After surgery to insert a screw, the budding junior was out for months.
He could only sit in a chair in practice, working on handling the ball and shooting without putting weight on his foot until he was cleared in August, partly through preseason.
“Heartbreaking,” Agboncapolo described it.
But a full off-season or not, Agbonkpolo still took the next step for the Trojans. Has career-high averages in junior points (8.4), rebounds (3.6) and field-goal shooting (47.1%). In Wednesday’s Pac-12 opening win against Utah, Agboncapolo scored 11 in the second half to stop the Utes and finished with 16 points, one of the career-highs of 17 he scored earlier this season. had made.
“Really it’s just confidence for me, honestly,” said 6-foot-9 Agboncapolo. “The confidence of the players and coaches this year motivates me to play better.”
You can see the trust in the court. His first two seasons, it was clear that Agboncapolo was not comfortable taking shots, especially 3-pointers. His numbers in that area haven’t improved, but Agboncapolo comfortably steps into his shots and laughs at his 22.7% mark from beyond the arc.
An average of only 7.3 minutes per game as a freshman and 16.0 as a sophomore, many student-athletes in today’s sport would have opted for transfer. But Agboncapolo relied on the coaching staff’s vision for himself.
“It’s tough, but you know, coach they say by my side, ‘You’re good, you’re good,'” Agboncapolo said. “Just had to wait for my time. Last year, we had a really good team. Freshman year, we had a great team. I had to wait for my time and I think the time has come.”
Agboncapolo knew that his role would center around his defense. This is the only way to earn and retain minutes under head coach Andy Anfield, and why Agboncapolo has started three times in seven matches, which matches his total starts in the first two seasons combined.
“We need his scoring ability and his length and his defensive comeback,” said USC head coach Andy Enfield. “Even when he’s not scoring, he affects wins with his athleticism and if he rebounds and steals and blocks shots.”
Given that Agboncapolo spent most of his offseason in a chair, it wasn’t a poor start for the junior small forward and USC, who will look to extend their 7-0 start on the road to Washington State on Saturday.
“I love this team. This team is amazing,” Agboncapolo said. “I think we’re going to do great things.”
USC (7-0, 1-0 Pac-12) at Washington State (6-1, 1-0)
When: Saturday at 3 pm
where: Beasley Coliseum, Pullman, Wash.
TV/Radio: Pac-12 Network/AM 790