NCAA tourney hero says being drafted by the Knicks would be a ‘dream come true’ – The Mercury News

On the biggest stage, Ochai Agabaji outperformed anyone in his draft class.

And in about a week, he’ll know exactly how much NBA teams are stocked in NCAA tournaments.

“I think it adds a lot of value. People don’t see how hard it is to get to that spot in general,” said Agbaji, who won the national title with Kansas and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. “He makes many games to win that. And those games also have to be played with extreme pressure. Being on the stage of the Final Four is one of the biggest pressures in basketball. But being in front of those people and in that environment is different from anyone else. But I think it’s harder than people see it.”

Aghazi ended his predraft workout Thursday with a stop at the Knicks training facility, where he was the top prospect in a group of six. He is pitched as a pick in the 10 to 20 range, a position reinforced by the teams he had previously seen from New York – Washington (10th pick), Chicago (18th), OKC (12th) and Cleveland. (14th).

The Knicks have an 11th pick and, if they don’t trade, will miss out on Purdue’s top target Jaden Ivey, who is destined for a top-5.

Aghaji is a thin wing shooter who, at 22 and a senior player last season with the Jayhawks, is among the older prospects. It’s usually a loss for a player’s perceived range, but Aghazi said he thinks the NBA is more prepared.

“The level I’ve been competing at and the level I’ve been going through for the last four years helps me prepare better for the league than others,” he said.

Aghaji was “on the fence” about announcing the NBA draft last year when he was a second-rounder. But he returned to Kansas and the return gamble paid off.

Aghazi improved in all categories as a senior, most impressively with a 3-point shot he held last season at a 41% clip. This remains their development focus.

“I believe I am one of the better shooters,” he said. “But obviously it looks like I can’t shoot the ball well. So just getting to the next level as far as getting my shot off, taking my shot quickly and still being consistent in it is something I’m working on. ,

Interestingly, the Knicks had five of the most outstanding players from the last 18 NCAA tournaments (Carmelo Anthony, Joachim Noah, Wayne Ellington, Kemba Walker, and Ryan Arcadiacano). Aghaji has already played at MSG twice, including an impressive 29-point finish in a win over Michigan State.

He is hoping to make such MSG highlights a common place.

“It would be amazing[to be drawn by the Knicks],” said Agazi, who dined with the team’s front office on Wednesday night. “Being in the city, being in Madison Square, playing under Coach Thibodeau, it would be like a dream come true.”


Jabari Smith is probably the No 1 pick and he is certainly not slipping past No.

The Auburn Stretch power forward said he only worked for teams choosing first and second – Orlando and Oklahoma City – and plans to keep it that way until draft night.

Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Duke’s Paolo Banchero have also been offered as top-3 picks, but Smith himself has been crowned the jewel.

“I think I am perfect because of my ability to affect both sides of the ball and my ability to hit shots and affect wins at such a young age,” Smith said. “I feel like that’s why I’m the No. 1 pick.”

Smith, who averaged 17.1 points as a freshman last season, was impressed with OKC executive Sam Presti during his journey.

“Just with that (Kevin Durant) and (Russell Westbrook) team, he has a vision to go back to where he was,” Smith said. “He sees it going in the right direction and that was really promising for me.”


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