KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas senior Ochai Agbaji's parents sat down with KSHB 41 News to discuss their son's success ahead of his final appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Agbaji, an Oak Park graduate and Kansas City, Missouri, native, is undeniably talented on the court. The 6-foot-5 small forward may even wind up being an NBA lottery pick in June.
For now, Agbaji's potential impact on national championship chase is massive despite relatively humble basketball roots.
He was a potent scorer for the Northmen in high school, but Agbaji graduated without much fanfare — a Rivals three-star recruit, ranked 145th overall and 39th among shooting guards.
Now, the nation is talking about where Agbaji could land in the NBA.
The determination and work ethic it took to make that happen started at home.
“That was one of the main things me and him did, we just worked on his skills," his father, Olofu Agbaji, said. "The rest will fall in place."
Since he was a young boy, Ochai Agbaji has had his eyes set on one thing.
“Parent teacher conferences, the teacher said he had written about wanting to be an NBA star someday," his mom, Erica Agbaji, said. "Looking back at that, it was like, 'OK, you know, a lot of kids want to be NBA stars.'"
NBA stardom may await, but only after helping shoulder the pressure of a promising NCAA Tournament appearance. The Jayhawks are the No. 1 seed in a Midwest region that sets up well for Agbaji and company to make a Final Four run.
“He will be the first one to tell you that we aren’t done yet," Olofu said. "Because he used to like Spider-Man, and one of the favorite quotes is 'With great power comes great responsibility.' so that’s what I always remind him.”
Ochai is known for his dunks and leadership on the floor, but that's not what his mom cheers on the most.
“As the years have gone on, I can see the leadership in him has just grown," Erica said. "But I love his smile after he’s made a dunk or a good play or someone else has. Just that smile. That tells me he is having fun, he’s doing what he wants to do."
Ochai chose Kansas over offers from Wisconsin, Oregon, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Nebraska among others.
"Not having any ties or anything with KU or any of the local schools here, I think (Jayhawks) Coach (Bill) Self was just real and just told him how it was and he could see him being a star on his team," Erica said. "He could see them going to a championship."
Olufu still remembers being a little shocked.
“I thought he was going to offer him a walk-on spot or something, which we would have still accepted," he said. "They offered him a scholarship and it was unbelievable. He was like, OK, this is an opportunity and chance for you to go show what you can do."
It's been a thrill for Agbaji's parents to see Ochai thrive and have fun doing it. Whatever comes next, they are proud for what he's done for his hometown, KU and more imporantly, himself.
“I am just so excited that it’s paid off, so he can actually tell people and ... tell young kids what the prize is when you follow the right path and do the right things," Olofu said.
The Agbajis are excited for the Jayhawks' tournament run, which begins at 8:57 p.m. on Thursday against 16th-seeded Texas Southern at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. The game will be televised on TruTV.
After that, comes preparation for the NBA Draft and a professional career.
“It doesn’t matter where he is drafted," Olofu said. "I just hope he goes to a team that has personnel like Self and KU, a team that will be able to tap the best out of him."