As a senior who moved into the Kansas starting lineup as a freshman and never left, Ochai Agbaji should be playing with some confidence.
Yet teammates can see the elevated potential the No. 3 Jayhawks (2-0) could flex if their versatile threat continues at the 27-point pace he has enjoyed heading into a matchup Thursday against Stony Brook (0-1) at Lawrence, Kan.
“He’s just trusting his work. I mean, he worked really hard this offseason, and he worked really hard (in practice),” said another veteran starter, Christian Braun. “He’s in the gym a lot. He’s as confident as he’s ever been, and it’s good to see. If he’s doing that all year, our ceiling gets even higher.”
A first-year player for the Jayhawks chimed in.
“He knows he’s the best player on the team and he’s playing like that,” Bobby Pettiford said.
Agbaji scored a career-high 29 points in the season opener against Michigan State and followed with 25 against Tarleton State as the Jayhawks secured their 49th straight home opening win.
“He’s really playing at a high level,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, who has never had a Jayhawk net more points in his first two games of a season.
Few penciled in an absolute go-to man for the Jayhawks before the season began, and it could be that Agbaji, a 14-ppg scorer last season, cools off. After all, he has only nine 20-point outputs in his career.
So far, however, Agbaji has exceled as a 3-point shooter and has beat defenders off the dribble, while also becoming a favorite recipient of alley-oop lobs.
He is the most consistent offensive threat on what could be the deepest squad Self has assembled in his 18 seasons at Kansas. Just two other players, Braun and Remy Martin, are scoring in double figures on average, though 11 players have shown enough promise to remain in the rotation.
Kyle Cuffe, Cam Martin and Dillon Wilhite have already been targeted for redshirts.
Among newcomers who have made quick impressions, Iowa State transfer Jalen Coleman-Lands might top the list. He scored 10 points against Tarleton, including a bucket off a hustle play in which he saved a ball from going out of bounds, came back on the court and nailed a jumper.
Stony Brook (0-1) has not played since opening Nov. 9 with a 74-52 loss at George Mason. Jahlil Jenkins, a Fairleigh Dickinson transfer, scored 13 points and Anthony Roberts added 10, but the Seawolves shot just 34.4 percent and got outrebounded 44-31.
“It was good to get the year started. We have a lot of new guys and it’s going to take some time to build some chemistry,” Stony Brook coach Geno Ford said. “We had 11 guys miss over a week of preseason and that showed with our sense of timing and purpose on offense.”
Those deficiencies convinced Ford that the nine-day layoff before traveling to Kansas would be advantageous.
“We definitely need the practice time. We just aren’t very good right now,” Ford said.
–Field Level Media