Just four days ago during a conference loss against Iowa State, Ochai Agbaji was nothing more than an afterthought sitting at the end of the Kansas bench in street clothes. That all changed with the news that Udoka Azubuike would be out for the remainder of the season.
Head Coach Bill Self announced during his “Hawk Talk” radio show Tuesday night, that they would be pulling Agbaji’s redshirt – allowing him to play immediately.
“We’re going to play small a lot and we need depth,” Self said Tuesday. “We need guys that can make some plays above the rim that you can’t really teach. As far as athletic ability, he’s the best athlete that we have on our team, so we’re excited.”
That was high praise from the Kansas coach – especially considering he hadn’t played a minute for the Jayhawks – but Agbaji lived up to the hype and more during his debut Wednesday night against the No. 25 ranked TCU Horned Frogs.
Agbaji played 13 minutes in the first half (most of any player off the bench) and made his presence felt from the get-go. His first basket came in the form of an alley-oop from Devon Dotson just four minutes in.
He ended up going 2-2 for 4 points while adding in two rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, and 1 steal in route to a 40-31 halftime lead for Kansas.
While Agbaji captured most of the attention because of his debut, Dedric Lawson quietly had his best game of the season.
The Wooden Award candidate chipped in 13 points and 4 rebounds in the first half. He finished the game with a season-high 31 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 steals. The game marked his 11th double-double this season.
Lawson looks like the favorite early on for Big 12 Player of the Year honors and is on the watch list for several others.
Freshman PG Devon Dotson played only 7 minutes because of foul trouble in the first half and struggled shooting against the Horned Frogs. He finished the game 0-6 with just five points.
The Horned Frogs kept it close for the majority of the second half, pulling within two in the final minutes. But due to the stellar play of Lawson and Kansas forcing 20 turnovers, the Jayhawks pulled away by a final score of 77-68.
Even more impressive for Agbaji, was that he was in the game with under one minute to go and the game on the line. That speaks volumes to the type of game he was having and the level of confidence Self has in his former redshirt, freshman guard in just his first game.
He finished the night with 7 points on 3-5 shooting and a total of 4 rebounds and 2 steals. The full box score can be found here.
The Jayhawks move to 13-2 on the year and Bill Self is now 48-3 at Allen Fieldhouse following a loss.
The Jayhawks will travel to Baylor on Saturday to face a Bears team that just knocked off No. 20 Iowa State on Tuesday. The game is at 3 p.m. CT on ESPN.