Skyhawk flies on the court
Akuel Kot, a senior studying Sports Administration, has been playing basketball every day since the seventh grade. Kot’s dedication to the game has paid off. Standing at six-foot-two, he’s a Fort Lewis College men’s basketball team guard—and its star player.
“I’m a student of the game,” Kot said. “Ever since I was a young player, I could clear all the distractions from my head and grind away. I put three hours into the gym daily and liked seeing those results on the basketball court.”
And see those results he does: the Skyhawks cinched the 2023 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournament Championship with a stellar season record of 28-3. RMAC, a college athletic conference affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association at the Division II level, has 15 men’s basketball teams on its roster. FLC is currently ranked in first place.
"I'm a student of the game. Ever since I was a young player, I could clear all the distractions from my head and grind away. I put three hours into the gym daily and liked seeing those results on the basketball court."
— Akuel Kot
Kot was named to the RMAC All-Tournament Team and tabbed as the RMAC Tournament Most Valuable Player. Earlier this year, he was featured on the Bevo Francis Award Top-100 Watch List, which features players nationwide with the finest overall season. He has since advanced to the Top-50 Watch List. He was also flagged as one of 10 game-changing players to watch in the DII men's basketball championship by NCAA.
It’s not boasting to say that Kot and his teammates have brought prestige to the program, which has significantly benefitted from its quality coaching.
“We’ve been playing basketball since 1960,” said Bob Pietrack (Exercise Science, ‘04), head men’s basketball coach. “I played for the Skyhawks from 2000 to 2004, and since then, I’ve seen the program blossom and become hugely successful. But most important is that these young men are bettering their lives with an education.”
Pietrack’s sentiments echo the Athletics Department’s commitment to “graduating champions,” supporting student-athletes from the court to their cap and gown. Athletic programs like men’s basketball have taken a more holistic approach to supporting players like Kot.
“Even though we’re in basketball season, we’re always focusing on school,” Kot observed. “We get up early every day for classes and practice. We work hard because the ultimate goal in college is to get a degree. Basketball has opened up that opportunity for me.”
While Kot wants to play the game as long as he can, he has a few ideas for his career after he hangs up his jersey. Namely, he wants to open up an athletic facility and become a coach, a profession he’s become interested in after watching Pietrack.
“Coach Pietrack and I have had a good relationship since day one,” Kot said. “We trust each other, and he gives me great pointers. I’ve just been listening in.”
Kot will represent FLC at the 2023 NCAA Division II South Central Regional Championships, a back-to-back blitz of seven games between eight teams nationwide. Held at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas, the FLC men’s basketball team will play in the second quarterfinal on Saturday, March 11.
Kot said that, even though he’s had a busy senior year, he’s had plenty of support on and off the court.
“It’s my fourth year, and I’ve been enjoying it,” Kot said. “Here, I can focus on myself. I can focus on my classes and have good friends and teammates that make it easier. We look forward to working every day so that when the game comes, we'll be ready.”