Agnew returns, with vigor
Former Mohigans standout injured during senior year
The Dominion Post
Wednesday evening, Austin Agnew was all smiles, incessantly bouncing a basketball on the sideline in the Morgantown High Rowdy Center as he prepared to work out with the group of rising MHS freshmen he’s been coaching all summer.
It was a far cry from the disappointed Agnew who sat on the end of the Mohigans’ bench during their last game, a loss to South Charleston in the first round of the state tournament, in Charleston, in March.
At that time, Agnew, a senior center, was recovering from a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee, sustained in January contests against Martinsburg and University, that ended his high school career just 12 games into his last season.
At 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, Agnew averaged 12.2 points for the Mohigans in the 10 games before his injury, making him MHS’s second-leading scorer. Then dreams of winning a state championship and playing collegiate basketball were dashed with one false step.
“To be honest, the week after I got the news it was torn, I thought my career was over,” Agnew recalled with a grimace.
But with some encouragement from family and friends, Agnew became determined to make a full recovery.
“God works in mysterious ways. I know he has something better for us. His plans are not our plans,” he said. “My plans were to win the state championship and be holding up the trophy, putting on my ring, but God didn’t have that in the plans.
“My mom always tells me, ‘God has something better for you. This happened for a reason, yo u ’ve gotta accept it. You may not like it at the time, but it’s what God wants, ultimately.’ ”
Agnew had surgery Feb. 1 and went through a month of rehab at HealthWorks. Since then, he’s been working out and practicing at MHS with the help of Jeff Hoffman, former MHS assistant coach and director of Morgantown Youth Basketball.
He was officially cleared to play, with light contact, last week. Already he’s played a handful of games in a summer league at Mountaineer Middle School and in open gyms at MHS.
Agnew said his knee already allows him to do everything he did before, just at a slightly lower level. He said he had to overcome some nerves about the knee giving out on defensive slides, but any worry was short-lived.
“When I first got out there, I was so happy,” he said. “I hated staying away from the game. I couldn’t go out here and play ball, shoot or anything. From the moment I was able to run, I was trying to get back to dunking and my style of play. Still not there yet, but I’m working on it.”
And it turns out, he has something left to work for after all.
Potomac State College head coach Justin Anderson, who watched Agnew play before the injury, spent time with Agnew at the state tournament. Just a few days later, Anderson
called to offer Agnew a scholarship. Agnew, who got an offer from Bethany College, accepted immediately.
“In my mind I’m just like, ‘I got a scholarship to play somewhere. I get to keep playing basketball. I’m so happy,’ ” Agnew recalled with a huge grin. “I don’t even care, I could have the worst day ever, but as soon as I heard that news, I’m happy. To play college basketball, I’m a happy guy.”
Now he’s adjusting his jump shot and working on his ball-handling skills, as well as strengthening his leg, to make a transition from the center position to become a small forward or a shooting guard.
“That’s a very big transition, but I’m willing to work and I’m ready to make it happen,” said Agnew, who has been shooting 300 shots a day combined with form shooting drills. “I’m not going to be posting up down low too much. I’ll be outside moving the ball a lot, setting other people up instead of me out-muscling people because the competition I’ll be going up against soon, people are as big as me.”
Meanwhile, he is coaching a team of rising freshmen in the Morgantown Youth Basketball Organization, which includes his brother,
Deon. The team traveled to AAU tournaments
and practiced 2-3 times per week throughout the summ e r.
For Agnew, who hopes to pursue a career coaching high school or college basketball, it’s his first foray into the field. He said coaching has been nothing like he expected, but he’s having a blast.
“Oh my gosh, I’m not gonna lie, coaching is fun, but it has its ups and downs,” he said. “Yo u ’ve got those kids that want to listen to you and want to do good, then you’ve got those other kids that it’s like, ‘What are you doing? I don’t understand. Oh my gosh, seriously?’ They’ll get under your skin.
“But I’m not gonna lie, I love every one of those kids to death. It’s fun coaching them. They all treat me with respect. Most of them are my little brother’s friends and they all knew me as Austin and now they call me coach Agnew. I’m just happy to be out there doing it.”
Agnew said he preached intensity and hard work, and spent a lot of time teaching his players how to play defense without reaching. Hoffman said the players loved working with Agnew because of his positive outlook and happy-go-lucky attitude.
“He’s just a great role model because he’s such a good person, has God in the middle of his life, and they all want to do what he’s getting to do,” Hoffman said. “I might say something to them and they might do it, but if he says it to them, they want to do it.”
Though Agnew hated being sidelined, he now realizes he learned some valuable lessons during his time sitting on the MHS bench and coaching that he can apply to his own play.
“At the time, I wasn’t thinking this is going to help me,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, this sucks, I want to be out there so bad.’ Especially in the state tournament. It was the worst thing in the world, watching the game slip away knowing that if you played you would’ve made a difference, but you can do absolutely nothing about it. But after the season, I watched some of the films and thought, ‘I could’ve done this, we could’ve done this,’ and I started watching it from the coach’s perspective.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is just the x’s and o’s, basketball strategy, trying to put your players in the position to score and play good. Trying to put your team in the best position to win.
“From the coaching perspective, I’m sitting there trying to figure out how to set up my players, and now that I’m playing, I’m thinking the same way. How can I set myself up and set my teammates up? It ultimately has made me a better basketball player, making better passes and seeing the court for what’s all out there.”
Agnew, who will be on a general studies track at Potomac State and hopes to play basketball at WVU or the University of Alabama after two years there, said he’s just excited to get started.
“Now that I’m back, I just never want to stop. It’s an amazing feeling,” he said. “That time off, you just sit there and think about how blessed you are because you know in a few weeks you are going to be playing a game. That’s something other people can’t say. I thank God for the position I’m in right now, that he allowed me to come back and play the game I love so much.”

Jason DeProspero/The Dominion Post
Austin Agnew dribbles around a set of chairs Wednesday evening at Morgantown High School.

Austin Agnew dunks while working out Wednesday in the Morgantown High School gym.