Agbaji bringing energy to No. 14 Kansas
The sudden emergence of Ochai Agbaji is beginning to make the redshirt that was previously targeted for the Kansas freshman look foolish.
"It just goes to show you what a bad decision that I made initially in misreading the situation," conceded Jayhawks coach Bill Self, "because he is beyond his years. He's got an energy and a poised look about him that this team really needs."
The redshirt was pulled before a Jan. 9 home game against TCU, a Big 12 rival that No. 14 Kansas faces Monday in Fort Worth, Texas.
Agbaji has played in 10 games and was one of four freshmen Saturday who started for the Jayhawks (18-6, 7-4 Big 12) when they toppled Oklahoma State before readying for the quick turnaround against the Horned Frogs (17-6, 5-5).
Agbaji also happened to be the one player in Saturday's starting lineup who did not arrive at Kansas as a McDonald's All-American. In fact, his recruiting pedigree as a local prospect from the Kansas City area was rather pedestrian.
While that could have influenced Self's initial decision to redshirt the 6-5 wing, the contribution from Agbaji has made the coach realize the freshman could have helped the thin Jayhawks from the outset.
Their latest setback involving personnel was a leave of absence allotted to guard Lagerald Vick, the Jayhawks' lone senior and their most prolific 3-point shooter. To offset that blow, Agbaji netted 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting against Oklahoma State.
"A lot has happened this year," Agbaji told The Topeka Capital-Journal. "Coach has been talking to us. Everybody's been talking to us. We're just staying focused."
Kansas also has been without starting sophomore guard Marcus Garrett (ankle) the past three games. Two frontline players -- center Udoka Azubuike (wrist) and forward Silvio De Sousa (NCAA suspension), will miss the remainder of the season.
The makeshift rotation Self has been left to create could make it problematic for Kansas to extend its string of 14 consecutive Big 12 championships, especially if it cannot improve on a 1-6 road record.
"We have to go down there (to TCU) with a purpose and a focus," Self said. "People talk about running plays and all that. It doesn't matter what you run as long as you have energy and passion. It's contagious. I think we have some guys out there we can feed off of."
TCU evened its Big 12 record Saturday with a 92-83 road win at then-No. 17 Iowa State. The Horned Frogs shot 53.2 percent to post their first road win in 50 games against a ranked opponent. The skid stretched 21 years, back to January 1998 when TCU won at No. 24 Hawaii.
"I'm only to blame for the last three years and when I was a teenager. You can't hold me to everything the last 30 years," TCU's Jamie Dixon said of his time as a coach and player for the Frogs. "But it's about us. We're new and we're building and getting better and looking at today, not yesterday or 10 years ago."
Freshman guard Kendric Davis notched career bests with 22 points in 29 minutes at Iowa State, hitting 7 of 10 shot attempts with four assists. Junior guard Desmond Bane leads TCU, averaging 15 points per game.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 11, 2019