SENIOR SERIES: A profile look at triumphs and struggles experienced by some Aurora senior prep athletes in the time of the coronavirus pandemic:
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
The onset of the coronavirus kept Obi Agbim from the feeling of winning another state basketball championship, but it hasn’t kept him from planning for a bright future.
The recruiting process for both prep athletes and college programs alike has been severely impacted by the ongoing pandemic, but several Aurora athletes have still been able to secure their chances to play at the next level, whenever that becomes possible.
One of those is Agbim, who went from a key reserve on the Raiders’ Class 5A state championship-winning team as a junior to a nearly unstoppable force as a senior for coach Shawn Palmer’s team during a 26-0 season. The 6-foot-3 point guard’s performance opened a lot of doors and he stepped through a big one recently when he signed with Metropolitan State University of Denver.
“It’s been hard because I planned to play club ball as an unsigned player and around this time I would probably be celebrating a state championship,” Agbim told the Sentinel. “But I’m feeling good now…After just committing, I can’t stop thinking about different paths and ways my life can go. Most of it looks bright, but a pandemic like this can keep going for a long time.
“It hurts, but I feel like we can overcome all of this.”
Agbim’s poise, confidence and jaw-dropping athleticism — which produced a number of did-he-really-do-that? moments — earned him EMAC Player of the Year honors, first team All-State and All-Aurora accolades and dramatically raised his profile.
On a team that excelled because of its depth and balance, he averaged a team-best 13.3 points per game and tied for the team lead with 3.0 assists per contest.
It was a major step forward from last season, when Agbim averaged 5.9 points per game — a total he nearly doubled with 11 points in the Raiders’ 5A state championship game victory over Chaparral, which snapped the program’s 34-year title drought — and didn’t receive any all-league accolades.
Agbim credits the trust he earned during a longtime relationship with Palmer for helping him truly unleash his talents in his senior season at Rangeview.
“What really changed was my role,” Agbim said. “Coach Palmer gave me a bigger role and I took advantage of it and really tried to become a leader on the team. He’s coached me all my life and knows what I’m good at and what I’m not good at. He allows you to make mistakes and get better, that’s the biggest thing.”
Despite the honors and abundant recognition of his individual contributions, Agbim is remorseful of the lost chance to accomplish a team goal he wanted so badly.
The Raiders were rolling after an impressive Great 8 win over Columbine at the Denver Coliseum — which extended their overall winning streak to 45 games — and had put in a full week of practice ahead of an all-Aurora showdown with Grandview in the 5A Final Four when the Colorado High School Activities Association canceled the rest of the tournament.
The program still hoped that somehow CHSAA could figure out a way to safely play the conclusion of the tournament when the pandemic lessens, but the organization brought a close to the season for good April 21.
“It was a long season, but we did it together and we made Rangeview history,” Agbim said. “We still have hope that somehow we are still able to play these games, but once we got that news, it didn’t feel real. It still doesn’t.”
With summer basketball an uncertainty, in all likelihood the next basketball competition for Agbim will come at Metro State, a local Division II program in Denver with significant recent tradition.
Agbim is now part of a recruiting class for coach Michael Bahl that includes Rangeview teammate Christian Speller — another All-Aurora first-teamer who played a large role in his commitment — as well as Chaparral star guard Kobe Sanders.
Until then, Agbim is trying to focus on adapting to online learning, taking frequent walks with his dog, running around with his brothers and holding out hope that Aurora Public Schools can figure out a way to have a graduation ceremony he would cherish.
“When you are a freshman, you don’t really think about it all, but senior year goes by really fast,” Agbim said. “I didn’t believe it, but it really did. To know that I’m on track to graduate and even if I do complete my senior year I can’t walk (in graduation), it hurts a lot. Some people will be the first ones in their family to graduate, so it hurts.
“It’s a moment you really will not forget and you can tell your kids about, so I would want to do it any time we can.”
SENTINEL PREPS’ SENIOR SERIES