As a 22-year-old, four-year school participant, Ochai Agbaji is an outlier in subsequent week’s NBA draft.
You gained’t hear overused draft phrases like upside and potential used practically as a lot with him as a few of the different youthful high prospects within the draft. Not like many others who will notice a lifelong dream subsequent Thursday at Barclays Heart, he can drink legally.
With that age comes expertise, which will be helpful, too.
“Going by way of school 4 years … the maturity and all of the expertise and the ups and downs I’ve been by way of, it’s much like the league,” the previous Kansas star stated Thursday after collaborating in a bunch exercise with the Knicks. “The extent I’ve been competing at for the previous 4 years and the extent that I’ve been going towards helps me and prepares me higher for the league I believe than others.”
Agbaji is a research in perseverance. The 6-foot-5 guard didn’t obtain a high-major scholarship supply till his senior yr of highschool. It wasn’t till his ultimate yr at Kansas — after flirting with the concept of going professional — that he broke out as a nationwide star. He labored tirelessly to get to that time, and now he’s about to develop into knowledgeable, following a season by which he guided the Jayhawks to the nationwide championship and averaged 18.8 factors and 5.1 rebounds.
Ochai Agbaji is older than most gamers within the draft. Getty Photographs
Ochai Agbaji celebrates after main Kansas to the Nationwide Championship.Getty Photographs
Whereas the Knicks’ clear want is for a playmaking lead guard, they need to encompass franchise linchpin RJ Barrett with as a lot expertise as potential, and including a dead-eye shooter like Agbaji can be a technique to enhance Barrett’s supporting forged. He shot 40.9 % from 3-point vary on 6 ¹/₂ makes an attempt per sport, and was terrific on school basketball’s largest stage, hitting 7-for-11 from distance en path to Remaining 4 Most Excellent Participant honors.
“You may play them each collectively on the wings and you’ll be dynamic athletically. They type of are opposites,” ESPN school basketball and NBA draft analyst Fran Fraschilla stated in a cellphone interview. “RJ can get to the basket on anyone. He’s a bull in a china store who’s nonetheless bettering his outdoors taking pictures, and Ochai is the alternative. He’s an athletic wing who is a superb shooter who nonetheless has to discover ways to get to the basket and rating in visitors. They’d complement one another properly.”
Agbaji figures to be there when the Knicks decide at No. 11. He has labored out for the Wizards, Thunder, Hawks, Cavaliers and Bulls, amongst others, principally groups within the again finish of the lottery. A yr in the past, Agbaji might have solely dreamed of being on this spot.
“He improved as a lot as any participant in school basketball [over the past year],” Fraschilla stated of the Kansas Metropolis, Mo. native. “He went from being a great Large 12 participant who had no actual draft buzz after his junior yr to placing himself in place to be a top-10 decide primarily based strictly on how a lot he improved from the tip of his junior yr to finish of his senior yr.
Ochai Agbaji participates in drills on the NBA Mix. NBAE through Getty Photographs
“He’s arguably pretty much as good a shooter as there’s on this draft, and it’s easy. He did it so many instances this yr in clutch, high-pressure conditions. That’s the place I believe he hangs his hat. He is a superb shooter who isn’t afraid of the second.”
Agbaji confirmed from the very outset of the season, beginning with the opener towards Michigan State when he poured in 29 factors and hit three 3-pointers in a blowout victory on the Backyard. It set the tone for a memorable yr — and it could have occurred at his future residence.
“That may be superb,” Agbaji stated. “Being within the metropolis, being in Madison Sq. [Garden], enjoying below Coach [Tom] Thibodeau, it will be a dream come true.”