Statistically, the last two weeks have arguably been the best of Asya Akar’s career as she’s averaged 16.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game over her last four contests.
But those already stellar numbers are even more impressive than they appear at first glance. Due to a right ankle injury, Akar’s minutes have been limited during this stretch, which makes her production all the more impressive.
So impressive in fact that Akar, Lyndhurst’s standout junior forward, is The Observer Athlete of the Week.
“I can’t wait until she’s fully healthy to see what she can do in a full game when the anke’s fully better,” head coach Chris Boyce said. “She’s starting to get better now. Once that ankle gets a little bit better, I actually expect the numbers to increase some.”
“I think this injury, really, I needed to prove to myself that I need to be out there, “said Akar, who estimates the ankle is currently at 75-percent.. “I needed to redeem myself because I was slacking a little bit (before), but I think (the injury) just showed me what I can actually do.”
Akar opened the season with consecutive double-doubles against Garfield and Waldwick before spraining her ankle midway through the Golden Bears’ win at Harrison on Dec. 19.
The injury forced Akar out for two games. Then, on Dec. 28 against New Milford, Akar was initially on the bench, but after a quarter was successfully able to convince Boyce and assistant coach Blair Watson to let her come in after the first quarter. Akar responded with 19 points in roughly 15 minutes as Lyndhurst recovered from a slow start for a 53-35 victory.
“I was begging them to be honest,” Akar said. “I was like ‘put me in, coach, I’m good.’ I had an ankle brace and everything. I was ready.”
“You could just see the girls all of a sudden perk up,” said Boyce. “ It was a great little boost for us, especially off the bench like that coming into a game. She really wasn’t supposed to play that game, but we needed her to.”
Due to the injury, Akar has played less on the perimeter than initially anticipated, instead playing predominantly in the post in recent games.
Akar followed up the New Milford performance with 15 points and six rebounds in limited minutes against North Arlington on Jan. 3. Then, two nights later at Weehawken, Akar had 23 points, eight rebounds and six steals. The following day, Akar scored eight points in the first quarter against Bogota before sitting out the rest of the game out of precaution. Lyndhurst is 4-0 since Akar’s return.
“I have developed my post game ever since this injury because it made me focus on that more,” Akar said. “I think the post is my strong suit to be honest. Scoring points in the post is so important.”
Akar’s development, particularly in the post, is not a conventional one. Unlike a lot of players, Akar doesn’t play AAU basketball during the offseason, but in the spring, she competes in track during the spring as a thrower and jumper.
Whether it’s inside the throwing circle or inside the paint, success in both requires good footwork.
“It actually is very similar because in throwing, it’s kind of like a pivot to make your throw go farther,” said Akar. “There’s certain footwork (required) and it’s kind of like the same in the post. I guess it helps me in basketball, and basketball helps me in track.”
Akar is confident that the ankle will continue to improve and expects it to be fully at 100-percent in the next couple of weeks. Knowing what she’s done while limited, the prospect of facing a fully-healthy Akar is a potentially frightening proposition for opponents.
“I think the best is still to come,” Akar said. “I scored 23 points (against Weehawken) and I’m looking to score more in future games. I’m still not 100-percent yet, but I’m looking forward to a really good season and I’m confident in our team.”
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)