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Yeboah a source of leadership for Rutgers in 1st season on Banks

The Rutgers men’s basketball team had an acquisition this offseason that shook up not only the team’s roster, but also the squad’s culture as well. The Scarlet Knights (16-7, 7-5) went after graduate student forward Akwasi Yeboah from Stony Brook. 

Yeboah was a standout for the Seawolves (15-8, 6-2), averaging approximately 14 points per game and six rebounds per game, all while shooting 41.3% from the field, 31.6% from beyond the arc and 78.5% from the free throw line. Playing for his previous school, he earned himself All-American honors for his play. 

Ever since coming to Rutgers, the Chigwell, England, native has seemed to be the missing piece for head coach Steve Pikiell’s offense and team culture. Since joining the team’s starting lineup, the Knights have been 10-4. Some of its big wins came against teams like Wisconsin, No. 22 Seton Hall and No. 20 Penn State, all of which are at least four games over .500 in the season. 

The highlight of the season so far for Yeboah came during a game against Nebraska at the Rutgers Athletic Center. In this late January contest, Yeboah surpassed 1500 points for his collegiate career. With the energy Rutgers fans were giving him, Yeboah finished the game with 20 points and had many big plays down the stretch. Pikiell shared his thoughts on Yeboah’s achievement postgame. 

"Awesome. He was terrific tonight. He's been a huge addition to our program. He's mature," Pikiell said. "We're kinda young obviously as a basketball program. He's our best academic student. He comes to work every day. I'm just proud of him. I'm glad he's here. That's a lot of points. Congratulations (Yeboah)."

In the next matchup for the Knights, Yeboah was honored before the game for his achievement. Yeboah was asked about how his leadership will help this young Rutgers squad down the line. 

“Great teams always find a way to win," Yeboah said. "Caleb (McConnell) made big-time free throws. It’s just all about being positive and leading by example.”

Even when asked a question about himself, Yeboah consistently involves his teammates into his response. His blue-collar work ethic has contributed to the Knights' successful season thus far. True freshman guard Paul Mulcahy and Yeboah have something in common: Both are newcomers to Rutgers. Before a practice, the youngest Knight had nothing but praise for his senior leader. 

“He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around. Akwasi is one of my favorite teammates ever," Mulcahy said. "We’ve gotten here at the same time and both have been here a couple of months. He’s a better person than he is a basketball player. He looks out for me on and off the court, I really appreciate him, and I am really proud for him.”  

Hard work and respect are contagious in Pikiell’s program. Yeboah has shown both of those traits since coming to play for Rutgers. By looking out and guiding Mulcahy, it verifies the true freshman's comments.

Before Yeboah’s arrival, the Knights had not had a winning season in 14 years. After establishing himself as a senior leader in the locker room and on the hardwood, Yeboah seems to embody everything Pikiell wants for the future of his program: hard work, passion, discipline and a winning mentality. 

For updates on the Rutgers men's basketball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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