Self on Tuesday's "Hawk Talk:" Freshman guard Ochai Agbaji will play Wednesday vs. TCU

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. by Nick Krug

The groundwork was laid a couple of days earlier, but the move became official on Tuesday night.

On his weekly "Hawk Talk" radio show on KLWN on Tuesday night, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self announced that freshman guard Ochai Agbaji would in fact be available to play during Wednesday's game against No. 25 TCU.

The move to bring Agbaji into the lineup will put an end to the plan to redshirt the 6-foot-5 freshman from Kansas City, Mo. And it figures to inject a little life into a KU roster searching for ways to move on without 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike, who was lost for the season after suffering a wrist injury during last Friday's practice.

Agbaji, of course, will not slide into the 7-foot center's position. But he will bring an added element of athleticism and perimeter depth to a team that figures to play a lot of four-guard lineups the rest of the way.

"We are bringing Ochai out of his redshirt and he will play tomorrow and moving forward," Self said on Tuesday night.

On Monday, Self revealed that he had talked to Agbaji and his family about a possible move. He also noted that he would not pull the redshirt off of the talented guard unless he intended to play him.

"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."

Just how much Agbaji will play, especially on Wednesday, remains to be seen. But his teammates have said he has looked great in practice and that his ability to defend and play above the rim would be an asset to the KU program.

“He's been great," fellow-freshman Devon Dotson said on Monday. "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.”

Dating back to last summer, Agbaji has approached his first season at KU with a team-first mentality 100 percent of the time. He said then that he would love to play but added that he would do whatever Self and the coaching staff thought was best for him and the team.

At the start of the season, that certainly was to redshirt to save a year of eligibility. But with the injury to Azubuike and Silvio De Sousa still facing an uncertain future, KU's depth has dwindled and the Jayhawks figure to be able to use Agbaji as a rotation piece who can keep things fresh on the perimeter and make some plays with his good attitude, all-out hustle and athletic ability alone.

People close to the program said Agbaji was one of the more talented and consistent players on KU's roster throughout the summer and called him a pleasant surprise given how late the Jayhawks landed him in the recruiting process.

He only has improved since then, both as a player and in terms of his physical make up, and has been a real asset in practice, pushing the starters and rotation guys as a member of the scout team on a daily basis.

In his last and lone action in a game setting at Allen Fieldhouse, Agbaji played 23 minutes in KU's two exhibition games, finishing 5-of-5 from the floor, 3-of-3 from 3-point range for 14 points and 7 rebounds. He added two turnovers, a block and a 1-of-2 clip from the free throw line in KU's wins over Emporia State and Washburn.

As Self mentioned on Monday, the stage Agbaji is stepping into on Wednesday night will be much different than those exhibition games and unlike anything the freshman guard ever has experienced.

But all signs point to him being ready and he certainly seems mature enough to handle it.

KU and TCU are scheduled to tipoff at 8 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN2 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Comments

Steve Zimmerman

BRING IT ON! Let's also hope to see adjustment on our offense - you don't place athletic guys to only weave around the perimeter. Or playing high-low. We will see a faster pace offense, lots of lobs/dunks, cutting, driving (but this time we'll make 'em count)! Let's go Jayhawk!!!!
This is really a game changer! I applaud coach BS' move on this one!

5 months, 1 week ago

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Ashwin Rao

I like this move. All the best, Agbaji! You will do well!

5 months, 1 week ago

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Mallory Briggans

Welcome OKC ……...Given the fact our team could use the backcourt help Coach Self must have seen enough in practice to bring him up. Self words were he not taking the redshirt off if doesn't plan on playing him. But for Self to say he will play tonight Self must think he is ready for live action . Again welcome aboard OKC !

5 months, 1 week ago

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Doug Longstaff

I'm happy for the young man to be able to play now. Red shirts aren't what they used to be--very few players coming into Kansas think they're going to have a 4-5 year stay anymore, even ones thought of as late bloomers, like Ochai was. So it wasn't really about "We think he'll be better in year 5 than he will be in year 4." Giving him a red shirt was all about shortening the roster--there were more players who could play than there were spots in the rotation. Taking one out for the year helps make the decisions easier.

Not so anymore. Bill was down to 9 scholarship players available. That's not a lot, and frankly, he hasn't liked what he's seen out of most of his guards. I don't think he feels like the 4-guard look is going to play very well--not anything close to what it was when we had 4 excellent shooters last year. This is all about trying to find something new and hope it works.

5 months, 1 week ago

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Bryce Landon

That thud you heard was the sinking hearts of Jamie Dixon and his Horny Toads players; their dream of leaving Allen Fieldhouse with a win was just shot to pieces.

5 months, 1 week ago

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Robert Brock

This is a good Frog team; they don’t fear a completely inexperienced rookie.

5 months, 1 week ago

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Steve Zimmerman

Robertson is an example of a collegiate player that's well groomed in 2-3 years time. Expect him to shine tonight.

5 months, 1 week ago

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Dane Pratt

First appearance in front of 16,000+ screaming fans. Talk about opening night jitters.

5 months, 1 week ago

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Tim Orel

He was there for the exhibitions, which also had 16K screaming fans. The big differences, of course, are that this game counts and is against much better competition.

5 months, 1 week ago

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Stuart Corder

This is awesome! Opening night jitters aside, he has the athleticism and skill to be an immediate impact!

5 months, 1 week ago

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Layne Pierce

It will be interesting to see the new approach, knowing Coach Self, it will be somewhat like the old, but sharpened with the new. He hinted we may press more, and that means you need more real athletes. Also, this kid can get to the basket, and he can jump. And he does have an outside shot.

One thing I think we will notice, is more substituions, or hardly any. Meaning that Coach Self will decide early in the game, if we want to go faster, or we want to slow it down.

I watched the Oklahoma TT game, and Oklahoma was in it all the way, Texas Tech is not invincible. Iowa State lost to Baylor? This league is very well balanced, and we still have the means to take it, but we must win every game at home, and win 3 or 4 on the road, and winning on the road is going to be tough this year.

The other thing to watch tonight, is what we do to cut down on stupid turnovers. Most of the tos against IState were unforced.

One major problem in the 4 guard set, is that Lawson struggles a little bit in the 5, and we certainly don't want to get him frustrated, or in foul trouble. Do we still play some sets with 2 big men, or do we simply substitute McCormack and Lightfoot in to give Lawson a break, or change it up.

RCJH

5 months, 1 week ago

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Henry Joseph Hofmeister

spot on. turnovers means we have to take that out of the game immediately. vick is like a turbo 4cyl. when it works omg, when a wire comes loose you are embarrassed.

5 months, 1 week ago

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Armen Kurdian

ISU turned us over a lot because they worked at it, and then we had some dumb ones I think caused by our getting flustered by their defense. We'll see if that happens again.

5 months, 1 week ago

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Henry Joseph Hofmeister

He could be a better shooter than one player, better defensively than two players, better assist than 3 players. Every player right now has problems aside from dotson and lawson. A spark is what we need.

5 months, 1 week ago

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Tony Bandle

The absolute correct move, no matter what happens tonight for OKC.

5 months, 1 week ago

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