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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Kansas lands No. 27 prospect Azubuike

Team Doo Be Doo Udoka Azubuike #00 in action against Team EZ Pass in the Under Armour Elite 24 game on Saturday, August 22, 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

Team Doo Be Doo Udoka Azubuike #00 in action against Team EZ Pass in the Under Armour Elite 24 game on Saturday, August 22, 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

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Future Kansas University basketball player Udoka Azubuike, who orally committed to KU over North Carolina and Florida State on Thursday on ESPNU, happens to be a 16-year-old true center from Nigeria — who, despite not yet starting a weight-lifting program — stands a stout 6-foot-11, 270 pounds.

The Jacksonville, Florida Potter’s House Christian senior has been called, “massive” and “bruising,” by Scott Phillips of nbcsports.com; a “huge get literally and figuratively” by Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog.com; and a guy “who attempts to punish the rim with slam dunks each and every chance he gets,” by Eric Bossi of Rivals.com.

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This rim-rattler, who recently was selected to play in the 2016 McDonald’s All-America game, isn’t afraid to rule down low, that is for sure.

“Pretty much,” Azubuike told the Journal-World on Thursday night, asked if he has the most fun trying to rip the goal down on forceful slams. “It’s just part of me. It’s just what I do. That’s just part of my game. I don’t lift. It’s just natural. It comes natural.”

Azubuike — he averaged 17.2 points and 9.6 rebounds per game last season and averages 16.9 points and 9.7 rebounds his senior campaign — has been compared potential-wise to a pair of NBA Hall of Famers.

“He has a mindset of being dominant. He sets out to do it. For the most part, his power, I would compare it to Shaq (O’Neal),” said Azubuike’s mentor/guardian, Harry Coxsome. “I know his finesse, he wants to be like Hakeem (Olajuwon). Once it’s all said and done I think he’ll have a mixture of both.”

Azubuike, who is ranked No. 27 in the Recruiting Class of 2016 by Rivals.com, watches videos of true pivots.

“I like the center position. I do. That’s what I’ve been trained to do. It’s what I do,” said Azubuike, also a fan of former KU center Joel Embiid of Cameroon, who is a second-year member of the Philadelphia 76ers.

“I talk to him sometimes. I talked to him this morning. He spoke to me about Kansas and all that,” said Azubuike, who said he did a “background check on Kansas. I just had that good feeling I’m going to be productive in Kansas.”

Azubuike won’t be eligible age-wise for the NBA Draft for two years, so he’ll have some time to develop at KU. He’s only played the game four years (being discovered in the Basketball Without Borders program). He played soccer as a youth.

“I need to work on my hook shot, going to my left and right, pretty much work on running the floor,” Azubuike said. “I feel very much inside of me I can go in and compete. I feel really confident in myself. I can go to Kansas and really be productive.

“It’s been a rough journey,” he added of traveling from Nigeria to a new land. “Coming over here ... the transition wasn’t easy. Through the process I got to learn the game more. I can go for everything. I’m real thankful.”

Dressed in black suit, white shirt and silver bow tie with fashionable thick black glasses, Azubuike on ESPNU’s recruiting show placed a KU hat on his head as he declared for the Jayhawks.

“It is definitely a great day,” Coxsome said. “It’s definitely a weight off his shoulders. Finally he has a chance to get back to doing what he does best. That’s play basketball. It’s definitely a great day. It’s been a tough decision. He built a relationship with coach Self and coach Williams (Roy, UNC). It came down to the wire honestly, to what he felt was best for him.”

Asked what KU fans will like about Azubuike the most, Coxsome said: “He brings a lot of energy. He loves the spotlight. He doesn’t shy away from it and he’s going to work hard.”

Azubuike believes he’ll fit in well here. “The love for the game is there. I’m living my dreams,” he said.

KU, which loses senior scholarship players Jamari Traylor, Perry Ellis and Hunter Mickelson, and likely additional players to the NBA Draft, has at least one scholarship left to give in recruiting. KU has signed No. 117-ranked Mitch Lightfoot, 6-8 from Gilbert (Arizona) Christian.

Comments

Steve Zimmerman 4 years, 3 months ago

What a great day to be a KU fan! Welcome to the Jayhawk Nation, Mr Azubuike! Let us hope this time the kid is given PT and experience on the floor. He seems too slow getting back on D, but a rim defender otherwise.

Dave Miller 4 years, 3 months ago

Sounds like a great addition to the Jayhawk family!

KU better start now on getting him cleared to play so he doesn't miss any time on the floor.

Mick Allen 4 years, 3 months ago

Coach has his "back to the basket 5". The high-low offense is back?

Barry Weiss 4 years, 3 months ago

well, I will eat crow. I may not have said it on these pages, but I was convinced the way this season has gone for Diallo and Bragg we had no shot at this guy. Shows how much I know. I hope he turns out great (and no high school issues)

Rock Chalk!

Mick Allen 4 years, 3 months ago

Correct Adam. I meant will it be back to be run effectively You are right in saying it hasn't gone anywhere.

David Robinett 4 years, 3 months ago

Wow, a beast already aage 16!?

The marketer in me says we ought to refer to him as the number one rated center rather than the 27th rated player

Jared Reeves 4 years, 3 months ago

Fantastic! Let's hope we save a spot for an elite point guard.

Jay Scott 4 years, 3 months ago

1- There isn't one uncommitted in the 2016 class 2- Mason and Graham are returning next year, Graham also the year after

Brett McCabe 4 years, 3 months ago

Jared, we are apparently still in on Alkins. Though he's listed as a 2, we all know that Self has long favored combo guards when available. He's the number 9 recruit in the country - but I'm not enough of a recruitnik to know what are chances are.

As yesterday's commitment showed, just because there is someone in a player's position, it does not mean we can't get a commitment to that position.

As weak as our guard play has been this year, I wouldn't want to sign someone who didn't think that they could come in and compete for minutes, especially since Mason is flexible enough to play either spot. To me, Devonte's spot is easily up for grabs unless he does something to lock it down over the balance of the season.

Jay Scott 4 years, 3 months ago

This is how much Kansas is "in on Adkins"

http://247sports.com/Player/Rawle-Alkins-35844

No ranking/scouting lists have him as anything but a scorer and a shooting guard.

Aaron Paisley 4 years, 3 months ago

KU may have an offer out to Alkins, but the odds of him suiting up for KU are about the same as you and I. Josh Jackson and the other wing KU just offered are the two guys KU is targeting hardest now. Jackson if Selden leaves and the other kid if Selden stays.

Rob Bedford III 4 years, 3 months ago

Seldom will be back for an average Senior season.

Rob Bedford III 4 years, 3 months ago

I have been wondering that about you, Jay. Did you just out yourself?

Dale Rogers 4 years, 3 months ago

Absolutely welcome this young man to Kansas! Now, can someone tell me how to correctly pronounce "Azubuike?"

Andy Hess 4 years, 3 months ago

My guess is Ah-zoo-bwee-kee or A-zoo-bwee-kee.

Harlan Hobbs 4 years, 3 months ago

Could be another interesting scenario for next year. I watched the announcement by Udoka on ESPNU, and I liked how he thanked Roy Williams and Leonard Hamilton for recruiting him. Classy act which tells me a lot about his character.

The analysts on the show said that a high-low offense with Mr. Azubuike and Carlton Bragg would be something to see. No mention of Cheick Diallo, so will be interested to see what happens with him. If Diallo and Bragg return, along with Landon Lucas, Dwight Coleby, and the additions of Udoka and Mitch Lightfoot, KU will again have six "bigs".

This year has proven that rotating six guys is pretty difficult when each wants his share of playing time. If this scenario occurs, I would predict that Mitch Lightfoot might red-shirt.

The analyst also said that Azubuike is definitely not a "one and done". I would caution though that they said the same thing about Joel Embiid. He came to Kansas as a "project" and turned into a potential #1 pick in the NBA lottery.

In short, it doesn't look like we will have a shortage of things to comment on next year. Looking forward to it.

Jay Scott 4 years, 3 months ago

From what I've read, Az will be required to play at least two years. He doesn't turn 17 until September.

Harlan Hobbs 4 years, 3 months ago

Hadn't heard that, but if you have read it, it is probably true.

Emeka Uzomah 4 years, 3 months ago

Pronounced Ah-zoo-bee-ke, the "e" at the end being a short e like in "egg".

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