MISSOULA — Jamar Akoh transferred to Montana partly because of the opportunity to win a conference championship.
The Griz accomplished that feat and made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in five years, and Akoh has been a key piece. He's added a physical presence down low and has been able to display his diverse skill set in his first year.
While Akoh made it to the national tournament, so too did his former team, making it through for the first time since 2008. The Cal State Fullerton Titans won the Big West tournament, knocking off top-seeded UC Davis in the semifinals and beating UC Irvine — where former Griz Blaine Taylor is an assistant coach — in the title game.
He was a teammate of three of the players who are still on the roster and played for the current head coach, Dedrique Taylor, as well as two of the assistant coaches.
“I’m still close with some of the guys over there, some of the coaches on the staff,” Akoh said. “I wish those guys the best. I’m happy for them. I’m happy they made it. We’re both going dancing in the same year. I’ve had some conversations with those guys, and I’m happy for them.”
The Titans are led offensively by Kyle Allman (19.4 points) and Khalil Ahmad (15.3), two guys with which Akoh played.
He’s kept up with the team when possible and watched games when he’s had the time.
“Their unselfishness,” Akoh said of what impressed him about the Titans. “That was one of our issues when I was over there. I think they’ve addressed that, and I think that’s what let them be successful.”
The Titans drew second-seeded Purdue in the first round 10:40 a.m. MT Friday. Akoh will be cheering for them, just hoping he’s already had a victory of his own the night before to celebrate.
“Anything’s possible in March,” Akoh said of Cal State Fullerton’s chances to win. “Crazy things happen in March. I wouldn’t count them out.”
Does Akoh have any regrets, “of course not,” he said.
“I love where I’m at right now,” he added. “I think everything’s happened for me the right way. I just thank God that I’m here. I’m happy for those guys as well.”
Right now, his focus is on being ready to face Michigan, although it hasn't yet hit him that he'll be playing in the tournament on Thursday.
"I wonder when it will," he said, "because everyone keeps asking me how it feels. I've just come to the conclusion that when you're in the moment of these things, you can't really wrap your head around it. I'm sure once it passes, the season is over, it'll finally hit."