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Okolie Named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year

Throughout the season, senior Agunwa Okolie showed impressive defensive versatility, guarding every position on the floor.

Harvard coach Tommy Amaker has consistently preached that the identity of his team is in the defense they play. Wednesday, the league’s coaches recognized senior Agunwa Okolie for his contributions on that end, naming him the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year. It was the second straight year that a Harvard player has won the award, with former co-captain Steve Moundou-Missi ’15 taking the award a year ago.

Okolie routinely guarded the best perimeter player for the Crimson all season. When junior Zena Edosomwan—who was named to the All-Ivy League second team—was out, Okolie would guard forwards and centers at times. Among his assignments this year were National Player of the Year candidates Buddy Hield and Kris Dunn, BYU forward Kyle Collingsworth, Kansas wing Wayne Selden, and Yale point guard Makai Mason.

Known primarily as a defensive specialist as a starter last year, Okolie—an All-Ivy League honorable mention—took on a significantly bigger offensive role throughout the season for Harvard. He opened league play with a career-high 29 points in a home win against Dartmouth and averaged 13.2 points and 7.9 rebounds for the season, reaching double digits in 11 of 14 conference games.

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Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, who called Okolie “the best player on the floor” after the Crimson’s Feb. 13 win over Brown, consistently singled out the senior for his play and effort throughout a disappointing conference season. After a game against Columbia in which Okolie sunk eight of 12 shots, notching 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists, Amaker noted the importance Okolie carried for the team.

“It’s obvious that he is our most important player,” Amaker said. “We’ve had to move him all around the floor; not only does he have to guard guys like that but we need him to score for us. He’s as productive and as efficient as anyone on the offensive end for us. There’s nothing more that we can ask him to accomplish for our team.”

—Staff writer David Freed can be reached at david.freed@thecrimson.com.

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