Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji announces he’s declared for 2022 NBA Draft

LAWRENCE — Ochai Agbaji had a historic senior year with Kansas basketball last season and has now officially announced his intentions for the future.

Agbaji declares himself for the next 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 extra year of eligibility he has to be in college for the 2020-21 season during the pandemic, it’s been clear since some time that it is time for his professional career to begin. .

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” ‘How did you feel ?’ I’ve probably been asked this 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 found the right words to accurately describe the elation and surreal nature of this moment, I do know this: I will never get tired of talking about it. From start to finish, this entire season felt like it was scripted. A season I will remember forever. One that I will never take for granted.

Agbaji continued, “But before I put my college career in the rearview mirror and look to the future, I want to thank some of the people who helped put me on the path to success. My family. My teammates. My coaches. And of course, the Jayhawk Nation. No matter where basketball takes me, I’ll always be a Jayhawk. That said, I would like to declare myself for the 2022 NBA draft. Chalk rock forever.

Kansas' Ochai Agbaji shoots North Carolina's Leaky Black during the national championship game earlier this month in New Orleans.

The 2021-22 season has seen Agbaji become a consensus first-team All-American, Big 12 Conference Player of the Year and more. When the playoffs rolled around, he stepped up and became both the Big 12 Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player. A co-winner of the Jayhawks’ Danny Manning Mr. Jayhawk Award along with David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot, Agbaji is poised to be the next NBA first-round selection in Kansas history.

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Agbaji averaged 18.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game in his 39 starts for the Jayhawks last 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.

The 3 was 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 his way to 21 points in a victoire. Fans won’t soon forget his 29-point performance in November’s season-opening victory over Michigan State, or his 37-point night in January’s double-overtime win over Texas Tech. Agbaji caught the attention of opponents game after game and 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 to the throat and he went to the throat,” said said Kansas coach Bill Self at the team banquet earlier this month. “He got it.”

Self, on Agbaji, later added, “Only one player I know, and none in my tenure, who has had a better senior year or better time of year, than this guy.”

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji celebrates after the Jayhawks' national championship victory over North Carolina on April 4, 2022 in New Orleans.

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Self then said he would make the announcement for Agbaji. Self told those present at the banquet that they shouldn’t hold their breath over Agbaji’s return next season. Self said himself that it was time for Agbaji to leave and they loved coaching him.

Agbaji’s departure obviously leaves a void within the team, both in terms of leadership and fair production on the pitch. The response to which player, or collection of players, will fill this void, will be determined over time. The decisions that Wilson and Christian Braun make, as to whether to turn pro now or put off that decision for another year, will certainly be a big factor in that determination.

Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas athletics at the Topeka Capital-Journal. Reach him at jmguskey@gannett.com or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.

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