Oak Park basketball star Ochai Agbaji chooses Kansas Jayhawks

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By Sam McDowell smcdowell@kcstar.com

At some point last week, Oak Park senior Ochai Agbaji accepted a curfew on his phone. A call after 11 p.m. would be sent to voicemail, and texts would go unanswered. The rule was implemented by his father, designed to put structure inside a chaotic basketball recruitment.

Agbaji silenced the noise in another manner Thursday, when he announced his plans to attend Kansas on a basketball scholarship.

Flanked by family and coaches with the student body sitting behind him, Agbaji, a 6-5 senior wing, made his commitment official Thursday during a ceremony inside the Oak Park High School gym.

“Once Kansas offered, we sat down as a family, and I knew that was the place,” Agbaji said. “What else are we waiting for?”

The announcement concludes a whirlwind two weeks of recruitment for Agbaji, who picked up seven offers from Power 5 conference schools in the past 13 days after having zero when the new year began.

Agbaji, who is unranked on Rivals and ranked No. 328 at 247 Sports, is averaging 27.7 points per game in his senior season on 59 percent shooting, coupled with 9.6 rebounds per outing. He has made 32 percent of his three-point attempts.

“We think he’s the best player in Kansas City. If people ask me, that’s what I tell them,” Oak Park coach Brennan Scanlon told The Star last week. “Now whether that comes back to bite us, I don’t know, but I think he’s the best in Kansas City. He can do everything.”

Agbaji received the offer from KU coach Bill Self on Saturday after attending a game at Allen Fieldhouse, his third unofficial visit to Lawrence.

After his recruitment was slow to develop, Agbaji had planned to wait until after his senior season to make a decision. But the offers came in a flurry. Thirteen days ago, Texas A&M presented an offer after watching him practice. In the ensuing two weeks, he added offers from Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Oregon State and Wisconsin.

A day after the visit to Allen Fieldhouse, Agbaji sat down with his parents during the Super Bowl and made a decision.

It was Kansas.

“It had gotten to the point where it was getting overwhelming,” said Olofu Agbaji, Ochai’s father. “He had said he wanted to wait until the end of the season, but once KU was interested, everyone started calling.

“We said (that) we might have to considering committing sooner rather than letting the flood gates open. And he knew what he wanted after KU offered. This gives him his privacy back and allows him to focus on school and the rest of the season.”

Agbaji has led Oak Park to a 17-2 record this season. A week ago, with KU coach Bill Self in attendance, he put up 29 points and 14 rebounds in a victory against Ruskin. KU assistant Norm Roberts was in attendance for two of his games last month.

Agbaji informed Self of his decision Wednesday.

“It will definitely be a stress reliever,” Agbaji said.

Agbaji played for MOKAN Elite last summer alongside Missouri forward Jontay Porter. Despite his under-the-radar status on national recruiting websites, several high school coaches in the area consider him the most talented player in Kansas City. Oak Park shuffles him between a few positions, but he projects as a wing in college.

Agbaji said he next most seriously considered Wisconsin, which he called his favorite team during his childhood. He was born in Milwaukee, and both of his parents played basketball at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He moved to Kansas City in 2005. His sister, Orie, plays volleyball for Texas and in 2015 won the Evelyn Gates Award as the top player in Kansas City.

He opted for a place closer to home.

“KU is a top (Division) I school only 45 minutes away — can’t get better than that,” Agbaji said, adding, “Being able to play for Bill Self, it’s something unreal. I love the school. I love everything about it. I’m just excited to play.”

As far as KU’s recruiting, the Jayhawks are also pursuing Romeo Langford, a 6-4 shooting guard from New Albany (Ind.) High School, who is ranked No. 6 nationally by Rivals.com. Langford has a final list of KU, Indiana and Vanderbilt.

Kansas currently has a full allotment of 13 scholarship players for the 2018-19 season. They include signees Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes and David McCormack, as well as current non-senior roster perimeter players Lagerald Vick, Malik Newman, Marcus Garrett, Charlie Moore and Sam Cunliffe, and frontcourt players Udoka Azubuike, Mitch Lightfoot, Dedric Lawson, K.J. Lawson and Silvio De Sousa.

Landing Agbaji put KU one over the limit. Newman, Vick and Azubuike have been considered possible early entries for the 2018 NBA Draft. And there is always the possibility of transfers.

The Star’s Gary Bedore contributed to this report.

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