In a February ceremony with his classmates behind him, Oak Park senior Ochai Agbaji unzipped his jacket, revealing his college choice with a Kansas basketball shirt. After the announcement, he explained his reasoning behind the decision to attend KU — its proximity to home, his relationship with the coaching staff, his love for the campus.
But as he concluded that list, he shrugged his shoulders.
“I mean, it’s KU,” he said. “It’s hard to pass that up.”
Two months later, Agbaji made his commitment official, signing a letter of intent Wednesday night to attend Kansas on a basketball scholarship.
KU confirmed the signing Thursday.
"Coach (Norm) Roberts went to watch Ochai play a couple times and was really impressed. I had a chance to go see him in late January and thought he was terrific," Jayhawks coach Bill Self said in a release. "I love his demeanor. He has a maturity about himself. He has a terrific frame and is an explosive athlete who can shoot.
"When we offered Ochai a scholarship, he jumped on it and that also excited us because you want to coach guys who are excited to be in your program. I see him as a Travis Releford type. A guy that comes in and has the body to be a major college player. Ochai could be a high major defender early in his career and his skillset is such that I think he could be an immediate impact player for us. We're fortunate to get a player locally of this talent who possesses all the intangibles you want in a student-athlete."
Agbaji, a 6-5 wing, is unranked on Rivals.com, a late bloomer whose recruitment heated up later than he had envisioned. He did not possess a single offer from a Power 5 conference school when his senior season began. But in a two-week span in late January and early February, he picked up seven such offers, with Wisconsin providing the most serious competition to KU. Agbaji was born in Milwaukee and grew up rooting for the Badgers.
He was chosen The Star’s All-Metro player of the year last week after averaging 27.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, despite facing double teams as the focal point of the Oak Park offense. He plays primarily on the wing, but he spent his senior season moving around often, even posting up.
“I was just trying to get in the post more this season, and also attack the basket and get to the line more instead of just settling (for jump shots),” said Agbaji, who attempted 240 free throws and made 80 percent of them this year.
Agbaji is one of four high school players to join the KU roster for the 2018-19 season, joining Quentin Grimes, a 6-5 combo guard from College Park High in The Woodlands, Texas, ranked No 11 nationally by Rivals.com; Devon Dotson, a 6-1 point guard from Providence Day High in Charlotte, N.C., who is ranked No. 17 nationally; and David McCormack, a 6-10 forward from Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., who is ranked No. 33.
KU also is recruiting Romeo Langford, a 6-4 senior combo guard from New Albany (Ind.) High, who has a final three of KU, Indiana and Vanderbilt. Langford, who is ranked No. 6 nationally by Rivals.com, will announce his college choice April 30.
Immediate playing time might be difficult for Agbaji to attain his freshman season, considering KU also will have eligible transfers in forward Dedric Lawson and guards Charlie Moore and K.J. Lawson. Also back are frontcourt players Silvio De Sousa and Mitch Lightfoot and perhaps Udoka Azubuike (who is considering turning pro) and perimeter players Marcus Garrett and Sam Cunliffe.
Agbaji played for MOKAN Elite last summer alongside Missouri forward Jontay Porter. Agbaji's sister, Orie, plays volleyball for Texas.