The Knicks are a week away from the NBA draft, another step away from last season’s disappointment, and when they held their final practice with a media invite, the main attraction was Ochai Agbaji, who spent four seasons in Kansas and culminated in a star in turn, to lead the Jayhawks to a national championship.
With the No. 11 pick, it might seem odd to consider a four-year starter in a world of one-and-done prospects, but Agbaji is not alone among players who have returned for at least a second season of college Balls to find their place to draft lottery considerations.
The NBA began pre-draft media sessions on Thursday, and the first player to speak, Keegan Murray, saw his production explode from his freshman season through sophomore in Iowa, and now he will, despite his relatively aging status as a 22-year-old considered a top 5 pick -alt. For context, RJ Barrett just wrapped up his third season with the Knicks and turned 22 on Wednesday.
“I think for me, I’ve been through a lot in my basketball career,” said Murray, who will not be on the board at No. 11 after meeting and training with Oklahoma City (No. 2), Houston (No. 3) , Sacramento (#4), Detroit (#5), and Indiana (#6). “So I went through these ups and downs. And for me, I feel mature and have this mindset, this IQ, that whatever happens, next time it’ll get done. But it’s an 82-game season. So it’s a long season and there could be ups and downs.
“I feel like there are a lot of really good guys in this draft class that have that mindset and that IQ and there’s a reason they’re in that position because of what they’ve done. And what they did on and off the pitch. I think I feel like I have a lot of growth coming from me. I had a growth spurt very late. So I’m a little way behind on my grade. But yes, I think there are a lot of people in this draft who have that attitude.
While it’s hard to guess which direction the Knicks will take with rumors that they might trade up or down — Draft Day movement has been a common thread throughout this front office’s draft day history — age and experience have them not deterred in the past. Obi Toppin was 22 and had two seasons in college ball when he debuted with the Knicks after being selected as the No. 8 overall pick. Immanuel Quickley played two seasons in Kentucky, and last year’s first-round pick Quentin Grimes spent three seasons in college — one season in Kansas and two in Houston. Last year, the Knicks were investigating the promotion of the draft for Chris Duarte, who was 24 at the time of the draft.
So Agboji’s age of 22 and four seasons of experience wouldn’t mean leaving him out if the Knicks remain 11th and he’s on the board.
While players like Jaden Ivey or Murray made huge leaps forward in their sophomore seasons, Agbaji took a step up as a senior – winning first-team All-American honors and being named the Final Four’s Most Valuable Player while leading Kansas to the title. As a senior, he averaged 18.8 points per game and surpassed 40% from three-point range for the first time.
Agbaji told reporters Thursday after practice that he had dinner with Knicks officials on Wednesday, saying, “Obviously college is a different game, it’s a different level than the league and you know, it’s a different pace, all of that Things. But the maturity and all the experiences and ups and downs that I’ve been through, it’s similar to the league and of course at the end of the day it’s basketball, I think just the level that I’ve been fighting at for the past four years and the level I’ve been up against is helping me and preparing me for the league which I think better than other guys.”
Notes & Quotes: The Knicks had five other players practicing Thursday. Georgia Tech’s Michael DeVoe, Davidson’s Hyunjung Lee, Texas Tech’s Adonis Arms, Wake Forest’s Isaiah Mucius and Miami’s Charlie Moore were all in attendance… Among the players speaking Thursday about the NBA’s pre-draft access, Bennedict Mathurin said , he did not work for the Knicks.