BROOKLYN, N.Y. — When you're working to build a contender, it helps to get guys who know winning. The Cavaliers' newest edition certainly has experience in that department.
With its first-round selection in the 2022 NBA Draft Thursday night, Cleveland took Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji with the 14th overall pick. Ohio State and St. Vincent-St. Mary alum Malaki Branham was still on the board, but the team decided to go with the man thought to be one of the best shooters available.
In a press conference held after the pick came in, Cavs President Koby Altman called Ogbaji an "excellent fit" who is "super accomplished," particularly pointing to the 22-year-old's role this past season on the Jayhawks' national championship team.
"[He] brings a skillset that we don't necessarily have to the table," Altman said. "We were super excited to bring Ochai in, and that skillset's going to be utilized, we hope, right away."
A native of Milwaukee who grew up in Kansas City, Agbaji could be considered a college basketball throwback, playing four full seasons at KU from 2018-22. It was during his senior year when he thrust himself on the national stage, averaging 18.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game while shooting 47.5% from the field, including 40.9% from 3-point range.
"He can really shoot," Altman told reporters. "He's got a really quick trigger, [and] he can run them off screens."
Agbaji earned Big 12 Player of the Year and consensus first-team All-America honors as the Jayhawks rolled through the NCAA Tournament and eventually came from behind to beat North Carolina and win the title. Agbaji averaged 16.5 points per game in the Final Four, and was eventually named Most Outstanding Player.
Besides his accolades as a player, Altman also praised Agbaji's character, describing him as "an incredible human being."
"He's always had to work his way [up], sort of self-made," Altman said in reference to Agbaji's history as a mid-level recruit who climbed the ladder at KU. "I think he brings a humbleness that we appreciate."
Prior to tonight, the Cavaliers had never drafted a player from Kansas. This was the final pick of the "lottery" portion of the draft, as the team finished the 2021-22 campaign with the best record (44-38) of any team that didn't make the playoffs.
Cleveland also had three picks in the second round, first taking 7-footer Khalifa Diop out of Senegal at No. 39. Ten spots later, the Cavs took USC forward Isaiah Mobley, a former five-star recruit who averaged 14.2 points and 8.3 boards for the Trojans last season. More notably, he is also Evan Mobley's older brother.
The Cavaliers rounded out the draft by selecting Australian wing Luke Travers with the 56th overall pick. The 20-year-old averaged 7.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season for the Perth Wildcats of the NBL.