“He Was Fantastic” | Agbaji’s Career Night A Product Of Impressive Mental Fortitude

On the night Lauri Markkanen dropped a career-high 49 points, the highest points scored by a Jazz player in the regular season in the last 30 years, it was the rookie who stole the news headlines.

After hopping back and forth between the NBA and the G League during the season, Okahi Agbaji had a career night with Houston on Thursday. He scored his 11 points on his 3/4 shooting in his 18 minutes, all of which were his career highs.

“I think it’s pretty clear who the ball in the game is going to go to Ochai Agbaj,” head coach Will Hardy said after the game. “Lauri is a very good player, scoring 49 points. But Ochai was also a career-best, and I have a lot of respect for Ochai and the way he’s approached his day-to-day work so far this season.

After a scoreless first stint of the first half, Agbaj gave the Jazz the spark they needed with his defensive physicality. Using his size and quickness in attack, he was able to be aggressive and keep his attack in rhythm whenever he got the ball.

But no one knew what would happen in the fourth.

Played 12 minutes and scored all 11 points in the first 5 minutes. Not only did he light up from beyond the arc, but his athleticism was also fully demonstrated when he threw a nasty dunk at Houston’s Tari Eason.

“I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I saw this coming,” Hardy said. I think I was very confident that I was mentally ready to dig in. He was great.

His special night came just 48 hours after Hardy gave the rookie an incredible kudos.

Asked about Agbazi after the game after Utah lost to Sacramento, Hardy replied that it was time for the Jazz to bring him out on the court.

“Yeah, I think it’s time for Ochai to find some minutes,” he said. We need it especially defensively.”

Grateful for what Hardy had to say about him, Agbazi has remained focused on what he can and only can control. I didn’t allow outside noise to affect my preparation for daily practice.

“There’s so much outside noise, so I just show up every day with good posture, without worrying about all that outside noise,” Agbaji said. Worry about what everyone is doing for me and what they are going to do for me.

Despite the career game, Hardy and Jazz believe this is another step in the right direction for Agbazi. , if he can continue to display that same mental fortitude, he should see more of the court for the rest of the year.

“We’ve reached a point this season where he’s doing a really good job. It’s time to get him for a few minutes and see how he did,” Hardy said. I don’t know if it’s done, but when you look at Ochai and the way he approached each day, his mentality when he was in the G League, how he handled good games, how he handled bad games, how he went. Back and forth, he never complained.”

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