LAWRENCE, Kan. — Ochai Agbaji enjoyed a historic senior year with Kansas basketball this past season, and now has officially announced his intentions for what’s next.
Agbaji is declaring for the upcoming NBA draft, after leading the Jayhawks to a national championship earlier this month in New Orleans. While technically he could return for one more year in college, due to the additional year of eligibility he has for being in college for the 2020-21 season during the pandemic, for a while it’s been clear that it’s time for his professional career to begin .
“’How did it feel?’ I’ve probably been asked that question a thousand times since we won the national championship,” Agbaji said in a statement posted on Twitter. “And while I’m not sure I’ve found the right words to accurately describe the elation and surreal nature of that moment, I do know this much: I’ll never get tired of talking about it. From start to finish, this entire season felt like it had been scripted. A season I’ll remember forever. One I’ll never take for granted.”
Agbaji continued: “But before I put my collegiate career in the rearview mirror and look to the future, I want to thank some of the people who helped put me on the road to success. My family. My teammates. My coaches. And of course—Jayhawk nation. No matter where basketball takes me — I’ll always be a Jayhawk. With that said, I would like to declare for the 2022 NBA draft. Rock Chalk Forever.”
The 2021-22 season saw Agbaji become a consensus first-team All-American, the Big 12 Conference’s player of the year and much more. When the postseason arrived, he stepped up and became both the Big 12 tournament’s most outstanding player and the most outstanding player of the Final Four. A co-recipient of the Jayhawks’ Danny Manning Mr. Jayhawk award with David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot, Agbaji is poised to be the next NBA first-round selection in Kansas’ storied history.
Agbaji averaged 18.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game across the 39 starts he made for the Jayhawks this past season. He likely would have led the team in minutes played, had he not missed a contest due to COVID-19 protocols. No teammate took or made more 3s than Agbaji, who finished with a 40.9% clip from behind the arc.
Three-pointers were the story of Agbaji’s performance in the Final Four earlier this month against Villanova, as he went 6-for-7 on attempts from behind the arc on the way to 21 points in a win. Fans won’t soon forget his 29-point performance in the season-opening victory in November against Michigan State, either, or his 37-point night in the double-overtime win in January against Texas Tech. Agbaji commanded the attention of opponents game after game, and so often continued to deliver.
“(Agbaji) went through the process last year like (Jalen Wilson) did and made the decision to come back, and when he came back he was going for the throat and he went for the throat,” Kansas coach Bill Self said at the team’s banquet earlier this month. “I’ve got it.”
Self, on Agbaji, added later: “Only one player that I know of, and none in my tenure, that has had a better senior year or a better year period, than this guy.”
Self said then that he’d make the announcement for Agbaji. Self told those in attendance at the banquet that they shouldn’t hold their breath on Agbaji coming back next season. Self said himself that it was time for Agbaji to go, and that they loved coaching him.
Agbaji’s departure obviously leaves a void, within the team, both in terms of leadership and just production on the court. The answer to which player, or collection of players, fills that void, will be determined in time. The decisions Wilson and Christian Braun will make, regarding whether they turn pro now or put that decision off for another year, will certainly be a significant factor in that determination.
Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.