‘It couldn’t have gone any better’: Self on two KU Jayhawks in NBA Draft first round

·3 min read
Rich Sugg/rsugg@kcstar.com

Seated with Ochai Agbaji, Agbaji’s immediate family members and invited guests in the Green Room of Brooklyn, New York’s Barclays Center, Bill Self was able to congratulate the first-team All-American seconds after the Cleveland Cavaliers made the former Kansas guard their first-round pick — 14th overall — in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Less than an hour later, Self, KU’s 20th-year men’s basketball coach, had moved into the stands of the Nets’ arena in time to join Christian Braun and Braun’s family in cheering commissioner Adam Silver’s announcement that the Jayhawks guard was the first-round pick of the Denver Nuggets at No. 21 overall.

“It couldn’t have gone any better than what it did. I think it’s been a pretty good night for anybody who supports Kansas basketball,” Self said in a Zoom call after the two members of KU’s national title team assured themselves guaranteed contracts on NBA teams.

Braun, a 6-foot-7 guard out of Blue Valley Northwest High School who played at KU three seasons prior to turning pro, had been considered a late first-round, early second-round pick entering the draft.

Agbaji, a 6-5 graduate of Oak Park High who played at KU four seasons, had been mentioned as somebody who could be chosen between Nos. 10 and 18 overall.

“I think from all we were hearing on C.B.,” Self said of Braun, “there was maybe an outside chance of 18 or so. With ‘Och’ we thought the entire time — at least he and his agent — were talking in that 12 to 16 range. He fell right in there,” Self added of lottery pick Agbaji.

Self said the two Jayhawks will fit right in with their new teams.

“From a talent standpoint, C.B. playing with Jokic (Nikola, Denver forward) … I don’t know if C.B. could play with a better big man than that dude because he (Braun) is such a good cutter moving without the ball and he (Jokic) is such a great passer,” Self said.

“For ‘Och,’ they (Cavaliers) wanted a perimeter shooter. Nobody’s going to shoot it any better in the draft than what Ochai does. I think it’s a great fit for both of them,” Self added.

Self said the two Jayhawks were both elated at the results of the draft. So were the players’ families.

“My conversations with both of them were very brief — five seconds because they had to go to their other deals,” Self said of Braun and Agbaji needing to pose for pictures with Silver and speak with media.

“Their families were extremely excited, It’s life changing in the span of a second. Even though you knew it was going to happen, in a span of seconds lives are going to change for a long time — forever.”

He said the two teams will be happy they selected the Jayhawks.

“They are winners,” Self said. “They will add to whatever culture is existing there. They will make it better. They will add value just from an intangible standpoint and culture standpoint. I guarantee it the first day they step into the first practice.”

Agbaj is 22, Braun 21.

“People say they are closer to the ceiling (because of age). That’s a bunch of crap,” Self said. “Both can get better. Both were late bloomers. I think ‘Och’ … his intangibles have improved so much from a competitiveness standpoint. He’s learned there is a different gear he has to get to compete at the highest level.

“He’s a good shooter now, a great shooter. He’s going to become exceptional. C.B. when he tightens his stroke up just a little bit, you are going to see a huge jump in him. He’s a terrific player. He will get more and more consistent shooting from the arc.”

Asked by a Cleveland reporter about Agbaji’s personality, Self said: “He is very unselfish, very thoughtful. He is definitely a ‘we’ guy. “He is conscientious. He cares about others. From a character standpoint … throw C.B. in the same group.”

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