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Kansas Jayhawks’ Ochai Agbaji heads to Cleveland Cavaliers as NBA Draft lottery pick

Kansas City Star logo Kansas City Star 6/24/2022 Gary Bedore, The Kansas City Star
Ochai Agbaji on the red carpet during the NBA Draft at Barclays Center on Thursday, June 23, 2022, in New York. © Arturo Holmes/Getty Images North America/TNS Ochai Agbaji on the red carpet during the NBA Draft at Barclays Center on Thursday, June 23, 2022, in New York.

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

The 22-year-old Agbaji, a first-team All-American, Big 12 player of the year and Final Four Most Outstanding Player, who played at KU the past four seasons, went No. 14 overall in the two-round, 58-player draft (Milwaukee and Miami lost their second-round picks this season for violating the NBA’s tampering rules during free agency). The top 14 picks in the draft constitute the lottery.

Agbaji averaged 18.8 points (on 47.5% shooting; 40.7% from three) and 5.1 rebounds a game this past season for national champion KU.

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

Agbaji, a graduate of both KU and Oak Park High School, 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 rounders since 2017. Josh Jackson went No. 4 overall that year to Phoenix.

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

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

He recently compared himself to Memphis Grizzlies second-year guard Desmond Bane.

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

He said he’s most comfortable “being a utility guy 1 through 4, switching, guarding 1 through 4 on the defensive end, being a guy that moves well off the ball and complements other guys.”

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