Five Things To Know About Utah's Newest Rookie: Ochai Agbaji

Ryan Kostecka
Digital Content Writer

Welcome to Utah, Ochai Agbaji.

In what has become one of the biggest offseason trades, the Jazz sent three-time all-star Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for multiple unprotected first-round picks and a bevy of young and talented players.

Among that group is Agbaji, the Big-12 Player of the Year and a first-round pick out of Kansas.

Here are five things to know about the national champion, Agbaji:

1.) Late-Blooming Prospect
Before Agbaji emerged as one of the best college basketball players in the country, he was a little-known prospect out of Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Missouri.

Growing up a dual-sport athlete in both soccer and basketball, Agbaji gave up the grass for the hardwood as a sophomore and never looked back.

After not receiving any Power-5 offers through his junior season, he broke out in a massive way as a senior. He averaged 27.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, was named the Kansas City Star All-Metro Player of the Year and was labeled a three-star recruit.

Despite his three-star ranking, Agbaji committed to play at Kansas over Wisconsin and Texas A&M.

2.) Unexpected Freshman Year
When Agbaji originally got to Kansas, the plan was to redshirt as the Jayhawks already had Udoka Azubuike and Silvio De Sousa on the roster. But an injury to Azubuike and eligibility concerns around De Sousa forced Kansas to burn Agbaji’s redshirt for some much-needed depth.

Nearly a week later, Agbaji made his first career start and dropped 24 points, seven rebounds, and two steals against Texas. He then had his first career double-double the next game against No. 16 Texas Tech, being named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week.

LAHAINA, HI - NOVEMBER 25: Ochai Agbaji #30 of the Kansas Jayhawks takes a jump shot during a first round Maui Invitation game against the Chaminade Silverswords at the Lahaina Civic Center on November 25, 2019 in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

3.) Sensational Senior Season
After declaring for the NBA draft following his junior year, Agbaji withdrew his name and elected to return to campus for one more season — and what a great decision it was.

He opened up the season by dropping 29 points in a statement victory over Michigan State and a career-high 37 points in a win over No. 13 Texas Tech. He also averaged 18.7 points per game, leading the Jayhawks to the Big 12 Tournament title.

He led Kansas to a national title, racking up numerous awards and accolades. He was named the Big 12 Player of the Year, consensus First-Team All-American, and the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player after averaging 18.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - APRIL 04: Ochai Agbaji #30 of the Kansas Jayhawks cuts down the net after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels during the second half of the 2022 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament National Championship game at Caesars Superdome on April 04, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Handout/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

4.) Impressive Career Arc
From when Agbaji stepped onto the court as a freshman to when he left as a senior four years later, the amount of growth in his game was nothing short of impressive.

He went from averaging 8.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game as a freshman to 18.8 and 5.1 rebounds per game as a senior. While those numbers were expected to increase, considering he went from 25.9 minutes as a freshman to 35.1 as a senior, hit shooting numbers showcased where he improved the most.

He improved his shot from three-point territory every season, going from 30.7% as a freshman to 40.7% as a senior — proving his value as a legit 3-and-D forward in the league.

5.) Athletic Lineage
Agbaji finding success at every stage of his athletic career comes as no surprise considering he grew up in a household full of athletes.

His parents, Olofu and Erica, played basketball at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His older sister Orie was one of the best prep volleyball players in the nation before suiting up at Texas.