Big 12 honors Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji as Male Athlete of the Year

photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji dunks on TCU guard Micah Peavy during a Big 12 tournament game on March 11, 2022 at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Add one more honor to the list for Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji.

Agbaji was named the Big 12 Male Athlete of the Year on Monday afternoon following a season in which he helped the men’s basketball team win the NCAA national championship.

“What a great honor to be named this among all the athletes in the Big 12,” Agbaji said in a statement. “It is humbling to be listed among Heisman Trophy winners, other national champions and great athletes. This would not be possible without my teammates, coaches and the KU support staff. We had a great run to the national title and it took a lot of people to get there, not just me.”

A senior last season, Agbaji was also recognized as the most outstanding player in the Final Four, the unanimous Big 12 Player of the Year and a consensus first-team All-America player. He led the Jayhawks with 18.8 points per game last season, and last month was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the No. 14 pick in the NBA Draft.

He is the fourth Kansas men’s basketball player to win the award from the Big 12, which has named athletes of the year since it first sponsored competition during the 1996-97 academic year. Frank Mason III shared it with Texas swimmer Will Licon in 2016-17, Nick Collison won it in 2002-03 and Jacque Vaughn was the inaugural winner in 1996-97.

Oklahoma softball player Jocelyn Alo won the Big 12 Female Athlete of the Year award and, like Agbaji, finished her season with a national championship. The redshirt senior was also the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Women’s College World Series and the Big 12 Player of the Year, and she finished her time in college with a record 122 home runs.

Kansas’ nominee for the Female Athlete of the Year award was track and field standout Alexandra Emilianov, who won the Big 12 championship in the discus for the third time in May and was the runner-up at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in June.

This year, nominees for the awards were submitted by Big 12 schools and selected by a media panel.

Report: Kansas’ Bill Self, Kurtis Townsend avoid off-campus recruiting amid NCAA probe

Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self and assistant coach Kurtis Townsend did not recruit in person over the past six weeks, a move that appears to be an attempt to lessen the impact of any penalties handed out in the wake of allegations of recruiting improprieties.

According to a report by CBS Sports, Self and Townsend were not in attendance at any AAU events during the four summer open evaluation periods, the last of which ended on Sunday. The reigning national champions were, however, represented by assistants Norm Roberts and Jeremy Case, meaning the Jayhawks were not completely off the road.

The decision was self-imposed and not mandated by the NCAA, which has for years been investigating Kansas for five alleged Level I violations. The organization has historically embraced any sanctions imposed by universities under investigation, but any resolution to the Jayhawks’ case does not seem imminent.

Ten people were arrested on corruption and fraud charges in September 2017 amid an FBI investigation into illicit payments in college basketball recruiting. The NCAA handed Kansas a notice of allegations in September 2019, including a charge of lack of institutional control, and its enforcement staff alleged in May 2020 that Self and Townsend “encouraged” representatives with Adidas to steer top basketball recruits to the Jayhawks.

Kansas has vigorously disputed those allegations for years. The case has since been referred to the NCAA’s Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP), which has provided irregular updates on the process since it began its review, and it seems unlikely it will be settled before the start of the season.

University officials have long held that they will no longer comment on the case, though athletic director Travis Goff said during Big 12 football media days in Arlington, Texas, two weeks ago that “unfortunately, there’s not” an update that he could provide.

“I’ve been hopeful that in 2022, we’re going to be able to move past that, and we’re halfway home in 2022, so it remains to be seen,” Goff said.

Despite the off-campus restraint, the Jayhawks have been able to host recruits on campus for official visits. Mikey Williams, a five-star guard from San Diego, and Taison Chatman, a four-star guard from Minneapolis, each were in Lawrence late last month.

Kansas is not the only program waiting to hear from the IARP on its infractions case. Arizona, Memphis, LSU and Louisville also have yet to be given a ruling.

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