IRVING, Texas – One of the most decorated players in Kansas men’s basketball history, Ochai Agbaji can add 2021-22 Big 12 Male Athlete of the Year to his list of honors as the conference announced its athletes of the year awards Monday. Oklahoma softball player Jocelyn Alo is the league’s 2021-22 female athlete of the year.
Nominees are submitted by Big 12 institutions and selected based on athletic performance during the 2021-22 school year by a media panel. Nominees must be in good academic standing.
“What a great honor to be named this among all the athletes in the Big 12,” Agbaji said. “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.”
Since the league started in 1996-97, Agbaji is the fourth Jayhawk to be named Big 12 Male Athlete of the Year, with all four being men’s basketball players – Jacque Vaughn in 1997, Nick Collison in 2003 and Frank Mason III, who was a co-recipient in 2017. Historically, Kansas’ Danny Manning (1988) and Rex Walters (1993) were Big Eight Conference Male Athletes of the Year, making Agbaji the sixth KU men’s basketball player to earn the honor. Overall, Agbaji is the ninth Kansas conference athlete of the year honoree joining the aforementioned and Nolan Cromwell, football (1977), Lynette Woodard, women’s basketball (1981) and Tammy Thomas, women’s swimming (1983).
Last month, Agbaji was selected No. 14 by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2022 NBA Draft, becoming the KU’s 18th lottery selection and the 12th in the Bill Self era. The Final Four and Big 12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player, Agbaji was a 2022 Consensus All-America First Team honoree, collecting All-America first-team nods from the NABC, Associated Press, The Sporting News and USBWA. The Kansas City, Missouri, native is Kansas’ 31st all-time Consensus All-America First Team selection, which is more than any other school. Agbaji was named the unanimous 2022 Big 12 Player of the Year after leading the conference in scoring with an average of 18.8 points per game.
A four-year starter for KU, Agbaji has etched his name into the Kansas records book. He set the record for consecutive games of three-point field goals made at 53. Agbaji concluded his KU career ranked 15th on the KU career scoring list with 1,652 points, fourth on the three-point field goals made (250), fourth on three-point field goals attempted (670) and ninth in minutes played (3,978).
Other 2021-22 Big 12 Male Athlete of the Year candidates included: Jalen Pitre (Baylor football), Breece Hall (Iowa State football), Deuce Vaughn (Kansas State football), Chris Gotterup (Oklahoma golf), Eugenio Chacarra (Oklahoma State golf), Chengetayi (Du) Mapaya (TCU track and field), Ivan Melendez (Texas baseball), Ludvig Aberg (Texas Tech golf) and Zach Fraizer (West Virginia football).
Kansas’ Conference Athletes of the Year*
1977 – Nolan Cromwell, football (Big Eight)
1981 – Lynette Woodard, women’s basketball (Big Eight)
1983 – Tammy Thomas, women’s swimming (Big Eight)
1988 – Danny Manning, men’s basketball (Big Eight)
1993 – Rex Walters, men’s basketball (Big Eight)
1997 – Jacque Vaughn, men’s basketball (Big 12)
2003 – Nick Collison, men’s basketball (Big 12)
2017 – Frank Mason III, men’s basketball (Big 12, co-recipient)
2022 – Ochai Agbaji, men’s basketball (Big 12)
*Big Eight Conference athletes of the year started in 1972-73 for men and 1980-81 for women. Big 12 Conference athletes of the year have been named from 1996-97 until present.