Agunbiade bright spot for Dukes
Saúl Berríos-Thomas | Layout Editor
Just before Saturday’s tip-off, Wumi Agunbiade and Orsi Szecsi performed a synchronized handshake. The same handshake they came up with four years ago in a dorm room; the same handshake they have done before every game since. On this day, however, the handshake preceded Duquesne women’s basketball history.
Agunbiade pulled up for a deep mid-range jumper at the 15:27 mark of the second half for her 1,538th and 1,539th career points. That shot moved the 6-foot-2 senior forward from Pickering, Ontario into third place all-time for the Dukes. She passed Darcie Vincent (1989-92) who had 1,538 points in her career.
The Canadian Agunbiade achieved the milestone Saturday against Rhode Island in a 62-47 win. She struggled mightily in the first half going 1-3 from the field for 2 points. Agunbiade turned it around in the second half and when the game was close she stepped up and gave the Dukes the cushion they needed to close out the game. She finished the game with 18 points on 7-12 shooting from the field and 11 rebounds despite shooting an abysmal 4-9 from the charity stripe.
Szecsi, a senior forward, was not surprised that her running mate came through when the team needed her.
“That’s Wumi. She does what she can do the best,” Szecsi said.
Agunbiade knew she wanted to play basketball even before she could read and write.
“My mom told me that when I was young I would be at daycare and the only thing I would ever play with was a basketball. Kids would try to have me play house and I wasn’t one to play house. I would just stick to a basketball,” she said.
Agunbiade received attention early on from colleges.
“I didn’t realize I could play [Division I] until I was in high school and I started receiving mail from schools,” she said.
Coach Dan Burt remembered recruiting Agunbiade as an assistant coach.
“She could have gone to Michigan, Nebraska – Nebraska was No. 3 in the country at that time – Texas, USC. But she trusted in us. It was a long recruiting process. I spent many a night in Toronto, Canada,” he said.
The decision wasn’t easy for Agunbiade.
“The biggest obstacle was leaving home. I’m a big mommy’s girl and I’m a home-body, so it was tough for me to think about being away from home and living in a completely new country,” she said
Ultimately, Agunbiade decided on Duquesne.
“The biggest thing that made we decide to come here was the consistency,” she said. “I was getting hand-written letters day after day and it was something that was consistent. I constantly saw Duquesne,” she said.
Just as Burt helped Agunbiade decide on Duquesne, Agunbiade helped Burt decide to stay.
“When this whole thing happened, last year, the kids made it known that they had wanted me to be head coach. For that I will forever be grateful. I can’t thank them enough,” he said. “Having someone who you can say is arguably the best post player in the league makes it a lot easier.”
But where did these handshakes come from?
“The first handshake that I developed was with Orsi … As time went on I created handshakes with everyone else. When April came here, we have our little thing. Raegan and I have our thing. Everyone on my team has one,” Agunbiade said.
Agunbiade has scored over 400 points in the last two seasons and came close her freshman year. She has 288 already this season and with 10 regular season games remaining and whatever post-season play the Dukes have she is poised to score over 400 again. That would move her into second place all-time on the scoring leaders list for the Dukes.
Even on a day where her career is being etched in the stone of history, she still defers to her team.
“We are all pieces of this one big puzzle. That puzzle happens to be Duquesne women’s basketball,” she said. “Without any individual piece the puzzle is not complete.”