Kansas Jayhawks’ Ochai Agbaji taken by Cleveland in NBA Draft

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji poses with the NCAA Division 1 Championship trophy before their victory parade Sunday afternoon in Lawrence.

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji poses with the NCAA Division 1 Championship trophy before their victory parade Sunday afternoon in Lawrence.

Especially for the star

Former University of Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji was picked by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft Thursday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Agbaji, 22, a first-team All-American, Big 12 Player of the Year and Final Four Most Outstanding Player who played at KU for the past four seasons, finished 14th overall in the two rounds, 58-player -Draft (Milwaukee and Miami lost their second-round picks this season for violating the NBA’s manipulation rules during free agency). The top 14 picks in the draft form the lottery.

Agbaji averaged 18.8 points (on 47.5% shooting; 40.7% from three) and 5.1 rebounds per game for national champions KU last season.

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Agbaji completed individual workouts with the Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Charlotte Hornets, Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers. Several mock drafts actually saw Agbaji go to Cleveland.

A graduate of both KU and Oak Park High School, Agbaji became KU’s first first-round pick since Udoka Azubuike, the 27th overall pick in the 2020 draft (by Utah). KU has had two first round players since 2017. Josh Jackson went to Phoenix that year in 4th place overall.

Agbaji is KU’s 23rd first-round pick and 39th overall since the NBA passed a two-round draft in 1989. He tested the NBA draft waters after his junior season but opted to return to KU, where he led the Jayhawks to the NCAA spring title.

He recently measured 6-5 3/4 with shoes, 6-4 1/2 barefoot at the NBA Combine. It weighed 216.8 pounds with a wingspan of 6-10 1/4 and a reach of 8-8 standing. He was 5.4% body fat. His standing vertical jump was 32.0 inches with a maximum vertical jump of 39.

He recently compared himself to Desmond Bane, second-year guardian of the Memphis Grizzlies.

“We’re athletic, bigger wings that can defend and deflect shots,” Agbaji said, noting that his contributions as a pro will include “shooting the ball, making athletic plays, plus my defense, my overall competitiveness and my winning spirit.”

He said he’s most comfortable being “a utility type 1-4, transitioning, guarding 1-4 on the defensive end, being a guy who gets off the ball well and complements other guys.”

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Gary Bedore covers all aspects of Kansas basketball for The Star—the current team, past players and coaches, and recruiting. He attended KU and was born and raised in Chicago and Lisle, Illinois.

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