Southern Illinois' Ben Coupet Jr. (25) is fouled on his way to the basket by Drake's Okay Djamgouz during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinal round of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament Friday, March 4, 2022, in St. Louis. Credit: Jeff Robergson / AP

A former Drake University basketball player who made it to the first round of the NCAA Tournament this past season has committed to the University of Maine.

Okay Djamgouz entered the transfer portal on March 20, leaving Drake after four seasons that included a red shirt season during his freshman year. Djamgouz announced on Thursday his commitment to the Black Bears. He has two years of eligibility remaining. 

Djamgouz, from Oakville, Ontario, is surprisingly familiar with the UMaine team.

Head coach Chris Markwood recruited Djamgouz when Markwood was an assistant at Northeastern, and assistant coach Rob O’Driscoll recruited Djamgouz while at Drexel. The connections with the Black Bears don’t stop there. 

Kellen Tynes, from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and Jaden Clayton of Whitby, Ontario, both know Djamgouz from their high school days. 

“I played against Kellen in prep school a little bit and I’ve known Jaden since he was in the fifth grade,” Djamgouz said. “I played AAU with him during my last year and I’ve known him and his parents forever and I love all of them.”

It wasn’t just the connection with players and coaches at UMaine that convinced Djamgouz to transfer to Orono. The junior heard from the school’s fans and community members throughout his short time in the transfer portal and liked what he heard. 

“Just the love I felt from the Maine community was great,” Djamgouz said. “There were a lot of communities that recruited me but Maine’s fan base messaged me a lot and I couldn’t message back but I definitely saw it.”

Gedi Juozapaitis, a fifth-year senior last year for the Black Bears, scored 15.4 points per game and 40 percent from beyond the 3-point line. Djamgouz shot 26-of-50 from three last season with Drake and spoke with UMaine’s sharpshooter about how Markwood and the coaching staff would use him on the court. 

“On the basketball side, [Juozapaitis] said Markwood trusts his guys and trusts them to make the right plays,” Djamgouz said. “As a shooter I asked Gedi, when you start hitting shots you start being used as a decoy but he said Markwood ran plays for him and it’s a free-flowing offense. It’s predicated on what he taught the players. He was starting a lot at Georgia Southern and he came to Maine and he said it was the best decision he ever made.”

Djamgouz averaged 3.1 points in seven minutes per game at Drake, appearing in 27 games. 

Drake went 27-9 and lost to the University of Miami in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as a No.12 seed. Djamgouz thinks UMaine can reach the tournament soon, as well. 

Drake went 20-14 in the 2019-20 season while Djamgouz was redshirted. Over the next three years, Drake made the NCAA Tournament twice. 

“For me, when I first got to Drake it wasn’t what it is in terms of basketball,” Djamgouz said. “They weren’t known for that and they flipped the script very quickly. It’s possible and I want to do that at Maine. I want to be a piece and help us win.”

Adam Robinson is a native of Auburn, Maine, and graduate of Husson University and Edward Little High School. He enjoys sports, going on runs and video games.