“That’s our player of the year”: Ochai Agbaji’s journey from role player to star

Ochai Agbaji named as Naismith Award finalist
Published: Mar. 25, 2022 at 3:01 PM CDT
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CHICAGO, Ill. (WIBW) - Starring for a blue blood program on College Basketball’s biggest stage was always a dream for Ochai Agbaji.

The reality to get to the top?

A slim chance.

However, the Kansas City native turned from role player to star and might do something few Jayhawks have done.

From supporting piece.

“That’s our player of the year.” Christian Braun, Kansas guard, said.

To All-American.

“We could not be more proud of him on how he’s represented himself and us the last four years.” Bill Self, Kansas head basketball coach, said.

Next, history in the making.

“It’s a complete 180,” Ochai Agbaji, Kansas guard, said. “Since I’ve stepped foot on campus, obviously I had confidence, but I was under a lot of recruits and all that, high major recruits and all that. But I just continued to keep working. And that build my confidence over time.”

Ochai Agbaji has developed into a star. Earlier this week he was named a finalist for the Naismith Trophy, an award honoring college basketball’s best player.

“First off, I think just giving him the award now,” Remy Martin, Kansas guard, said. “This dude, he’s been amazing the whole year. It helps the team. He’s been the anchor of the team.”

“It helps our team and makes everybody better and he gets to build his case for player of the year.” Braun said.

Only two Jayhawks have ever received the honor: Danny Manning in 1988 and Frank Mason in 2017.

“That means a lot,” Agbaji said. “Obviously to me and the people that support me, but I think it means a lot more to coach and obviously the program that the University of Kansas has been.”

“And all the players that have been there. So it just means a lot in the grand scheme of things. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. So really thankful for that.”

The Naismith Trophy winner will be announced Sunday, April 3rd - a day before the National Championship.

Danny Manning is the only Jayhawk to win the Naismith award and the NCAA Championship in the same season.

Agbaji is hoping to join that elite class.

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