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NCAA Tournament finalists renew rivalry at NBA Summer League

Updated July 13, 2022 - 8:24 pm

The stakes were far less for Cavaliers guard Ochai Agbaji than the last time he stepped onto the court against Brady Manek in front of a crowd.

Agbaji led Kansas to an epic comeback victory in the NCAA Tournament championship game in April over Manek and North Carolina. Manek and the Charlotte Hornets claimed a 91-80 win over Cleveland in an NBA Summer League game Wednesday at Cox Pavilion.

It wasn’t the first time their paths had crossed since that memorable night in New Orleans.

“I actually had a workout with him in Washington,” Agbaji said. “But we’ve been competing against each other since my freshman year when he was at Oklahoma, and it’s always been good battles between us.”

Manek had 12 points and seven rebounds Wednesday, and Agbaji made 4 of 8 3-pointers and scored 24. He’s 10 of 23 on 3s in the summer league and averaging 16.0 points in three games.

Agbaji has been what the Cavaliers hoped for when they took him with the 14th pick in the draft, but his focus has been on what doesn’t show up in a box score.

“Being a leader, being a talker, a hard worker on the court and just getting guys in the right places and staying sound and making sure everything is right out there on the court,” the 22-year-old said. “Another thing I do well is move without the ball. I think I play unselfishly in terms of cutting screening, spacing the floor correctly and making sure my teammates have their space to create and get their shot off.”

He credits Kansas coach Bill Self for helping instill those winning attributes, a fitting tribute because Self was in Las Vegas hosting Agbaji and more than 20 other staff and former players for dinner.

Agbaji’s new coaches might treat him to more dinners if he continues to progress.

“He’s really shooting the ball with confidence,” Cleveland summer league coach Mike Gerrity said. “He’s running off screens, he’s getting downhill and getting to his spots. We’re seeing it each game. And he’s digging in and playing hard on defense. If he’s able to do the things on the defensive end along with his shooting ability, he’s going to have a great career in this league.”

Ex-Rebel gets on the floor

Former UNLV standout Amauri Hardy played in his first game for the Cavaliers after sitting the first two. He scored 10 points in 17 minutes.

“I thought he brought some great energy off the bench and really changed the tempo to give us a little spark,” Gerrity said. “We were able to get some quick shots. He did a great job … kept himself ready and helped out the team.”

Hardy played three seasons at UNLV, averaging 13.1 points in 2018-19 and 14.5 in 2019-20. He transferred to Oregon for his senior season.

Hardy played in the G League this past season, appearing in nine games and averaging 6.7 points.

His brother, Jaden, is playing in the summer league for the Dallas Mavericks, who took him in the second round of the draft. Jaden Hardy, who went to Coronado High School, is averaging almost 30 minutes, 5.0 points and 5.3 rebounds.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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