Monday, January 7, 2019

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self exploring idea of pulling redshirt off freshman guard Ochai Agbaji

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji is pictured on Media Day, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji is pictured on Media Day, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Even though there are seven inches and 60 pounds difference between them, one unexpected benefactor of the season-ending wrist injury to Udoka Azubuike could be Kansas freshman Ochai Agbaji.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,” KU coach Bill Self said Monday when asked if Agbaji’s redshirt was now up in the air. “We haven’t made that decision, but just to be real candid with you, Ochai and mom and dad and myself, we’ve all talked about it.”

Entering the season, KU’s depth and long list of talent opened the door for the 6-foot-5, 210-pound guard from Kansas City, Mo., to redshirt.

But with Azubuike out and KU likely to play a large percentage of four-guard lineups the rest of the way, there may be an increased need for another body on the perimeter to offset the high volume of minutes expected to go to starters Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes, Lagerald Vick and Marcus Garrett.

“If the number is real high with the four guards, which it should be, you don’t have a lot of bench,” Self explained.

Utilizing Agbaji would give KU another option off the bench at three of those four guard positions. The only one he would not play would be point guard.

That doesn’t mean the move is automatic, though. With forwards David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot available to pick up some of Azubuike’s minutes in the front court, the seventh-ranked Jayhawks (12-2 overall, 1-1 Big 12) have the option to shuffle the deck and see how they can tweak things without pulling Agbaji’s redshirt. But given the fact that Self and others continually have called Agbaji the best pure athlete on the team, the chances of seeing him in a KU game at some point this season seem to be very real.

“I haven’t made a decision to do that whatsoever, because if you bring him out, you bring him out to play him,” Self said. “Is he good enough? Absolutely. There’s no question. But the reality of it is, it’s a different pressure that he hasn’t had a chance to experience.”

By that, Self’s not just talking about facing Big 12 competition or playing against Division I talent.

“The games that he played in high school, even though he was a really good high school player, (weren’t) state championship games,” Self said. “So (his) first taste is not even a Michigan State. (His) first taste is going on the road in a hostile place and having to deliver. He’s been great in practice and he’s gotten a lot better. But it’s a different type of environment that he’s never experienced before.

“Are we thinking about it? Absolutely. But have we made a decision yet? We have not.”

As for what his teammates think of what Agbaji could bring to the lineup, KU freshmen Devon Dotson and McCormack both had high praise for Agbaji's all-around game.

“We haven’t seen him shoot too much," said McCormack when asked if Agbaji could help KU's 3-point shooting woes. "He’s more of a slasher, just to play to his athletic ability. He’s a great energy guy, great mindset, very athletic and he plays with pace.”

Added Dotson: “He's been great. He can run the floor with the best of them. He’s really athletic, really fast, a high-flyer. He could really help us out.”


Jason Venable 2 years, 3 months ago

Do it! He'll be learning more by playing than watching.

Steve Zimmerman 2 years, 3 months ago

IT'S ABOUT TIME. This might change projection how far we'll go this season. I'm pumped up!!!

Jack Hoff 2 years, 3 months ago

Totally off topic but the football roster has been updated and Pooka is listed as a sophomore so my guess is the plan is for him to play next year.

Gerry Butler 2 years, 3 months ago

I'll just take this second guy and say - -I sure hope so - we need him for Les. - thanks for the update man

Michael Maris 2 years, 3 months ago

I seen a Coach Hull Tweet where Pooka was mentioned on the tweet (it was in reference to Patrick Mahomes video talking about throwing no look passes). So, I wondered if this was a good sign (of Coach Hull tweeting and mentioning Pooka along with other KU Football players).

Jack Hoff 2 years, 3 months ago

He has another court appearance slated for tomorrow morning. I imagine we'll get something official shortly after.

Jack Hoff 2 years, 3 months ago

Ochai shot 37% from three in high school and he took about 5 per game so he's a pretty good shooter. 80% shooter from the line as well. I would think he could be a good option he if does play. Not like anyone else is shooting the lights out. Kid could score the rock. Averaged almost 9 boards a game his senior year as well. I'm all for it

Steve Zimmerman 2 years, 3 months ago

The difference here, is, he's got confidence. At least from what I saw earlier. He's got the no-fear attitude. But I might be wrong. He hasn't been out there for months. Things might change.

Gerry Butler 2 years, 3 months ago

At this point - -I'm game and now Coach has mentioned it I think their is a good chance it will happen. - -From what I know or have heard -that this kid is all in on whatever he could do to help the team. - -So if that's the case I would almost bet he would have no issues with losing his re shirt - -plus I think his parents would back him 100% - If Coach has already talked with his parents also - -I think from this article if you read a little between the lines - -I'm hearing Bill almost saying - -IT WILL happen , I hope so

Dirk Medema 2 years, 3 months ago

The question probably is not whether he can shoot or run effectively as much as whether he would know when to be where in a half-court O & D. It is not like we've had slouch players (SDS and DMac) come in and appear overwhelmed by the game.

Ultimately it what has led to both Garrett and Lucas playing as much as they have/did.

Steve Zimmerman 2 years, 3 months ago

Educate me a bit on this one: why would a coach redshirt someone that's potentially good and has shown abilities to contribute to the success of a team? Does any NCAA regulation require redshirt to take place in Ochai's case? TIA

Shannon Gustafson 2 years, 3 months ago

He redshirted because Vick came back and there was too much depth to get him much playing time with the expected 3 guard lineup. In that case Self would rather have 5th year starter Ochai than 1st year 5 min/game Ochai. The NCAA had nothing to do with the decision.

He's now going to play because we're forced to go with a 4 guard lineup because of Dok's injury and SDS's situation thinning a previously stacked frontcourt and since a few of the guards have underperformed (namely Moore, KJ, and Grimes), there is a need for another guard to fill in those extra minutes and potentially steel minutes from the others depending on who's "feeling it" on a given night. It's also a situation where 6 guards is plenty of depth when playing 3 at a time (a backup for each starter) but is quite slim when playing 4 at a time (get two starters in foul trouble and all of the guards are on the floor with no subs until those in foul trouble can come back in later in the game). Even worse, one of them gets injured and now you have only one backup guard for who knows how long.

It's also possible Self plans to change to an offensive philosophy that plays to Ochai's strengths and therefore where he previously may not be as useful, he may now be more useful because his skills better align with the gameplan moving forward. That's purely speculation though.

Mallory Briggans 2 years, 3 months ago

Coach Self decided to redshirt OKC thinking we would run 2 bigs and 3 guards . That changed when Dok sprained his ankle ……..We need guards than can shoot maybe OKC can help the cause .

Jeff Kallmeyer 2 years, 3 months ago

Given the overall unreliable and inconsistent play from Vick & Charlie, welcome Och!

Thomas Green 2 years, 3 months ago

I have mixed feelings about this. Only Self knows the possibilities of the kid actually being able to contribute in a meaningful way. If he doesn’t think he can, then he remains redshirted. Based on Self’s comments so far, I believe he is leaning toward not bringing him out. I believe he’s concerned it’s not fair to throw him into conference play without the benifit of the full season to learn and adjust. Also, the player and his parents have to be on board with it. It’s anyone's guess as to their thoughts on it. With DeSousa it was not as important because he didn’t project to stick around for 4 years. With Agbaji, he might want 4 full years.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.