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With AAC honors secured, Achiuwa focused on a conference tourney title

University of Memphis Tigers basketball forward Precious Achiuwa, who Wednesday was named American Athletic Conference’s Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year, has provided the Tigers basketball team with spectacular play during his freshman season.

His outstanding performance also earned him First-Team All-AAC and All-AAC Freshman Team honors this week.

Achiuwa was the only player selected for both squads, and the only player to be an unanimous selection. He averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds a game, the only freshman to average a double-double.

However, he is not ready to rest on his laurels. The five-star recruit wants his squad to finish as tournament champions.

The six-seeded Tigers face East Carolina on Thursday, and Memphis must win four games in four days to secure a NCAA tournament bid.

“He has exceeded expectations,” Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway said at Tuesday’s media availability. “We are really proud of him and what he’s done here. When he came in, everyone knew the potential was there, but for him to actually do it has been amazing.”

With the absence of James Wiseman, Achiuwa became the team’s starting center, which meant that he could not play his natural position at small forward.

Achiuwa said the position change served him well, making him a more versatile player.

“I feel that I can play and guard multiple positions now, so the move has really improved my game,” Achiuwa said.

Achiuwa’s numbers in his last three contests have been dominant. He averaged 20 points and 17 rebounds in the Tigers’ last three contests of the regular season, peaking with a 22-point, 22-rebound performance in an overtime victory against Tulane Feb. 29.

Achiuwa refuses to boast about his statistics, preferring to highlight the team’s performance instead of his own.

“If I could make another decision, I still would choose Memphis, even with how everything has turned out,” the New York native said. “To play for Coach Hardaway, Coach (Mike) Miller, and with my teammates has been really special.”

Lester Quinones led Memphis with 21 points against the Temple Owls. (Photo: Terry Davis)

Achiuwa shares a special bond with fellow freshman Lester Quinones, who also is a New Yorker. They’ve been playing together since middle school and it has been a dream come true for the pair to have teamed up as college players.

“He knows my game really well, and I know his,” said Achiuwa, referring to Quinones, who also garnered All-Freshman Team Honors. “Both of us played together for a very long time, and it’s been a lot of fun.”

Despite the amount of controversy that Memphis experienced throughout the season, ranging from the Wiseman situation to forward D.J. Jeffries suffering a season-ending injury, Achiuwa has focused on one thing — an AAC tournament title.

“It’s not something that we can’t do or haven’t at least done sometime during all our careers,” Achiuwa said of winning four games in four days. “We know what has to be done. Now it’s about going out there and doing it.”



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