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KU senior Ochai Agbaji enjoys jersey retirement ceremony at old high school

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Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) smiles after a three pointer over Stephen F. Austin guard Latrell Jossell (10) during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) smiles after a three pointer over Stephen F. Austin guard Latrell Jossell (10) during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji on Thursday night was back at his old high school as one of the guests of honor for a special ceremony featuring his old uniform.

Agbaji, who starred at Oak Park High in Kansas City, Mo., before continuing his basketball career at KU, watched with pride as his jersey was retired at Oak Park during the school’s game against North Kansas City.

With the blast from his past encased in glass, with his No. 30 in light blue on the white jersey, Agbaji shared the moment with fans on hands and then shared his thoughts with a couple of local television stations.

“It means a lot,” he told KMBC 9 News.

“This is my why, why I keep striving to be great, because I know all these people are watching,” he told FOX 4. “I feel the support, I feel the love and that’s what keeps me going.”

Agbaji’s Oak Park story is as unique as it is special. He left the school’s halls as its all-time leading scorer but did not become a target for Kansas or many other Division I basketball programs until his senior season.

Unranked by all of the national recruiting sites, Agbaji jumped into the rankings in the big way after committing to Kansas, climbing into the Rivals.com picture at No. 141.

His story from there is now well-known by Kansas fans. He planned to redshirt as a freshman, but came into the picture midway through the 2018-19 season to help a roster impacted by injuries. Immediately, he showed off his athleticism, charisma, drive and personality.

He has started 90 games in a row since then — good for eight all-time on KU’s consecutive starts list — and, on Thursday, was named to the Wooden Award Midseason Watch List, featuring the top 25 players in college basketball this season.

His 1,183 career points have him in a tie for 40th place on KU’s all-time scoring list — with room to climb — and his 184 career 3-pointers currently have him in the top 10 on KU’s all-time 3-point shooting list.

Beyond that, The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie had him listed at No. 14 in the 2022 NBA Draft in his most released mock draft which was published on Thursday.

“I’m not sure what more Ochai Agbaji has to do to get people to buy into him in the public sector,” Vecenie wrote. “He’s averaging 20 points and five rebounds while shooting 50% from the field and 45% from 3. He’s a potential first-team All-American. These guys go in the top 20 typically when they fit well within the NBA construct.”

With his size, strength and athleticism, Agbaji does just that. But talk to anyone who knows him and they’ll tell you that, through it all, he has remained the same friendly, outgoing, people-person type of player he was when he was wearing Oak Park colors all those years ago.

None by PJ Green

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