Thursday, June 16, 2016

Monster’ game: Azubuike abuses rims in scrimmage

Freshman center Udoka Azubuike delivers a powerful dunk during a KU camp scrimmage on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at the Horejsi Athletic Center.

Freshman center Udoka Azubuike delivers a powerful dunk during a KU camp scrimmage on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at the Horejsi Athletic Center.


Kansas University freshman power forward Udoka Azubuike, all 7-feet, 270 pounds of him, dribbled the basketball past half court and, after a sweet cross-over dribble move, re-accelerated, attacked the hoop with two hands and slammed in the face of former Jayhawk forward Kevin Young on Wednesday in Horejsi Center.

Young could only stop and smile as Azubuike pounded his chest, then flexed to the delight of several hundred Bill Self campers who watched the advanced 16-year-old abuse the rims to the tune of 26 points in his Blue team’s 111-88 victory over the Red squad.

Box score

BLUE (111)

Josh Jackson 9-13 0-0 19, Frank Mason III 13-17 0-0 29, Udoka Azubuike 13-15 0-0 26, Carlton Bragg, Jr. 11-20 0-0 22, Clay Young 1-2 0-0 2, Brady Morningstar 5-6 0-0 11, Justin Wesley 0-0 0-0 0, Elijah Johnson 1-2 0-0 2. Three-point shots made: Mason 3, Morningstar, Jackson.

RED (88)

Lagerald Vick 9-17 0-0 23, Landen Lucas 2-6 0-0 4, Devonte Graham 5-14 0-0 12, Evan Maxwell 3-7 0-0 6, Mitch Lightfoot 2-5 0-0 4, Travis Releford 10-16 0-0 24, Kevin Young 4-7 0-0 8, Tyler Self 3-11 0-0 7. Three-point shots made: Vick 5, Releford 4, Graham, Self.

“Udoka is a monster,” said KU sophomore guard Lagerald Vick, who followed last week’s 29-point camp game outburst with five threes and 23 points for the Red team. “The way he carries himself on the court, off the court. He catches everything, dunks everything. That’s a monster to me.”

Nigeria native Azubuike, who averaged 16.9 points and 9.7 rebounds his senior season at Potter’s House Christian High in Jacksonville, Fla., hit 13 of 15 shots Wednesday. Most came off dunks, making some wonder how the rims were able to withstand such force.

Has Azubuike ever brought down a backboard?

“Oh, yes, yes, several times,” Azubuike said.

Of his most spectacular slam, the one in which he showed off nifty ball-handling skills, the McDonald’s All-American said: “It’s something I’ve been practicing. I did it in high school sometimes. I’m really trying to show off my point-guard skills a little bit.”

He was only kidding — something KU coach Self does not do when discussing the powerful player’s potential.

“He is probably as athletic off two feet as any big guy I’ve ever had,” Self said in introducing Azubuike to campers Friday at Self’s parent/child camp. “He could go down … Jo Jo (Embiid) was unreal … but Udoka could go down as the best big man Kansas has seen in many, many, many, many years.”

Self has said the same thing to Azubuike, who turns 17 on Sept. 17, many times.

“We have coach Bill Self trying to get on me, trying to put it on me,” Azubuike said of one of the reasons he looked so much more comfortable in Wednesday’s campers game than last week’s game — one in which he had eight points.

“As time goes by, I’ll be good. Coach keeps telling me all the time I’m probably one of the best young kids he ever recruited. He gets on me to try to work hard to get better so I’ll be a monster on the post.”

There’s that word — monster — again, though Azubuike recalls a different high school nickname.

“In high school, that’s what they used to call me: ‘Baby Shaq. Big Shaq,’” Azubuike said, drawing comparisons to Shaquille O’Neal. “I mean, it’s just a name people call me. I love it. I’ve seen videos of him and highlights. I see a little bit of me in him.”

Like former NBA phenom O’Neal, Azubuike might pick and choose some spots to flex to his fans, as he did to the campers’ delight Wednesday.

“I mean, it’s something I do all the time, something to make my team (excited),” Azubuike said.

The player who arrived in the U.S. as a freshman in high school still has work to do.

“Getting in shape more, trying to work on my left-handed hook shot,” he said of summertime goals. “Just keep improving my post move, be quicker, try to do all things better.

“I want to be successful in everything I do,” he added. “I take it as part of me to get better.”

He’s mature at such a young age, adapting quickly to college.

“My surroundings. My friends are back home,” he said. “You have time differences here. In high school, I can do whatever I want to. Now I’ve got to go to weightlifting, go to class. It’s been set times. That’s been a difference. I’m getting used to it.”

His teammates may never get used to trying to guard him. Sophomore forward Carlton Bragg Jr., who had 22 points as a teammate of Azubuike on Wednesday, said he feels “small” standing next to Udoka.

“Everybody else says that,” Azubuike said, smiling. “Sometimes he tries to guard me. He sees I’m too strong for him, so he tries to go to the perimeter. It’s been fun so far.”

And fun watching him.

“He’s a beast, a monster,” Vick reiterated. “He’s a strong guy and so young. It’s a long process, but he’s learning fast. I never thought he was going to be that athletic. He showed something today with the little ball-handling cross-over. I was amazed at that.”

Scrimmage highlights: Frank Mason III had 29 points and Josh Jackson 19 for the winners. Jackson had two spectacular one-handed dunks and also a block of a shot by Devonté Graham, who had stolen the ball from Jackson and was racing in for a layup. Jackson also blocked one of Graham’s deep jump-shot attempts. … Vick drove the baseline, then reversed back into the lane for a slam. … Vick says he has gained 30 pounds since arriving at KU as a freshman. He’s 6-5, 180. ... Mason tossed the ball off the backboard to himself for a slam. … Travis Releford, who played in the NBADL and Canada last season, ran into a brick wall in Azubuike, who took the ball away from the small forward. Releford scored 24 points. … Senior Tyler Self, who was a fan-favorite of the campers who chanted his name and “MVP, MVP,” had seven points off 3-of-11 shooting.

Rock Chalk game tonight: Brian Hanni’s Rock Chalk Roundball Classic, which will include former KU players including Releford, Cole Aldrich, Ben McLemore and others, will tip at 7 tonight at Free State High. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Autographs are available after the game. Admission is $10. For information go to the game’s Facebook page

Thornton decision ahead: Former Duke point guard Derryck Thornton is expected to choose between KU or USC in the near future, several recruiting analysts have reported.


Colby Hebert 3 years, 7 months ago

Ok, he is 16..Svi was 16, high rated recruits on the draft radar but not eligible for the NBA until they area couple years older. BILL SELF IS A GENIUS

The 2 and done. Elite muppet babies.

I wish the season started yesterday. This team is a perfect storm of experience, talent, and potential.

With all of our better known, experienced or hyped guards, we even got a young man like Vick who you cannot sleep on. He jumps off the screen when you watch him play the way Embiid did. It is like they are in 3D and everyone else is in 2D. Svi right now is balling for the under 20 Ukraine national team. We got the two monster freshman coming in. We have a veteran system guy with size and a high basketball IQ at the 5.

I am excited.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 7 months ago

The season can start after Thornton and Newman commit to form the all-redshirt practice squad.

Don't forget that at about this time last year, Vick was still planning to be a senior in HS, and would have been in this freshman class. Similar to Thornton, only without the transfer.

Colby Hebert 3 years, 7 months ago

I think you could split this Jayhawks team into two top 10 teams.....

Jay Scott 3 years, 7 months ago

A certain Houston area alum says she still thinks AZ is clumsy and won't be useful this coming season.....

Mick Allen 3 years, 7 months ago

Jay, hopefully Suzi has adjusted her expectations as to how Azubuike might contribute during the '16 '17' season. High, high praise from HCBS about this kid's potential.

Suzi Marshall 3 years, 7 months ago

Of course it's evolving. Hearing those comments from Self is in itself persuasive. However, I'm not going to back off what I saw in those HS Allstar games, specially, he needs to get in better shape and learn how to play the post, i.e. position, footwork, developing shots around the rim...although dunking 14 shots a game is more than fine in my book!

J.L. Forge 3 years, 7 months ago

I've watched him play numerous times recently and I don't see what you see in regards to the consistent reference to him needing to get into shape. Of course all these young men need to work on conditioning as the season approaches but having seen AZ run the floor, handle the ball, alter/block shots and dunk all over everything in sight, I have zero concerns about his conditioning and need to get into better shape. Have you seen this kid? Go stand next to him in person, he is a well put together young man...he is not soft or fat! The conditioning will get better but based on what the coaches are saying and his performance thus far, I don't see or want much to change cause his game is nasty and effective!

Suzi Marshall 3 years, 7 months ago

Great news to hear what you say. I've never seen him play, except on TV at the HS all-star games. Apparently he's in better shape now or did not put out much of an effort in those game, which is understandable.

I'm a big fan of Azubuike and hope he can be the best big in a long, long, long time as Self says. Hopefully the best since Wilt!

Michael Bennett 3 years, 7 months ago

It's pretty normal for a big man of that body type to look a little "soft" in his teenage years, before slimming down and looking more toned around college age. It's just baby fat. If you get a chance, google Marc Gasol in high school...

Brian Wilson 3 years, 7 months ago

Suzi...I'm not backing off what I said from day one either.. Azubuike will be starting come March Madness. You can't teach size and speed. From what the players are saying he is already bigger and stronger than the others and he has great intelligence. It won;t take long for Hudy to get him into shape and to improve some on his footwork. Once he adds a decent hook he will be a "monster." Remember, I coined the phrase, "Welcome to the land of Az!

Suzi Marshall 3 years, 7 months ago

Yes I do recall your phrase about Az. If Azubuike works hard, he'll be able to get it done this year. At the time we had that conversation, I was skeptical because he (Az) probably had no idea how much work was required. Listening to what Self has to say about him is really exciting. When Self likes a player, we've seen that player will get PT.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 7 months ago

"he needs to get in better shape and learn how to play the post, i.e. position, footwork, developing shots around the rim"

That hardly sounds like evolving Suzi. Sure, he can and will improve in all these areas but you make it sound as if he was just starting out.

Dee Shaw 3 years, 7 months ago

23 points for Vick. Sweet. Love his game.

Colby Hebert 3 years, 7 months ago

Vick is kind of under the radar but you cannot watch him play and not think his ceiling is as high as any guards we have had recently. He is super fast and long

Suzi Marshall 3 years, 7 months ago

I don't think Vick has been under the radar since leaving his commitment to SMU.

When a guy like Larry Brown gets a kid that then can not play for him...then suddenly, out of nowhere, Kansas and Kentucky are offering scholarships...the word is out. LB is the best in the business when it comes to recognizing talent.

Matthew Peters 3 years, 7 months ago

Lmao. Jay Scott this really shows how much expertise we have here on, im sure they thought since one other hyped freshmen didn't deliver it must be the same for others. to rule some people out it's okay, let's say maybe Evan Maxwell but if you're coming off being named one of the best in the country hold judgement or just look stupid later on....suzie. and the sad thing is you reiterated your views on him multiple times. You have no knowledge of his game until now. sorry to be a jerk.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 7 months ago

Susie may have been the only one saying it here, but I seem to recall hearing others comment along those lines about Az relative to the all-star on other forum.

It is good to hear the right comments coming from him and others about him working hard to develop himself and his game.

Jacob Zutterman 3 years, 7 months ago

Am I reading this right? Gained 30 lbs and now he's 180? Wow

Bryce Landon 3 years, 7 months ago

How great would it be if this guy pulled a Jerome Lane and shattered a backboard while at KU!

Jay Scott 3 years, 7 months ago

How many points does the team get for that?

Brett McCabe 3 years, 7 months ago

Two, assuming that he makes the basket. 100, if he's dunking your head instead of the basketball.

Jay Scott 3 years, 7 months ago

A question Brett. When your lack of emotional self control allows you to make such an infantile comment, how do you decide whether to use your own name or to use one of your fake accounts?

Do you just feel like humiliating yourself some days and not so much other days?

Mick Allen 3 years, 7 months ago

The picture of Mason is incredible. 5' 11", maybe. The kid is uber athletic. Throwing it off the board to himself for the flush at that size is amazing. He is also shooting the ball very well. I realize defense is not emphasized in these scrimmages, but still impressive. Anticipating a great year from Frank. Vick has shot the 3 very well. He will be a nice addition. The kid paid his dues last year.

Suzi Marshall 3 years, 7 months ago

This is going to be Mason's year. The first half of last year, through the OU game, he played like an All-American. From only looking at the film clips and talking to people attending those games, he's looking so strong, athletic and polished. The talk about all the other guys is justified but it's going to be Frank Mason that will carry the day for the Hawks.

I'm totally convinced he was injured the second half of last season.

Colby Hebert 3 years, 7 months ago

Devonte is better than Mason...Releford needs to show Mason how to finish in traffic at the rim

Mick Allen 3 years, 7 months ago

Seeing how Releford is 6'5" and Mason is 5'11" maybe, it should be easier for him to "finish" at the rim. Your criticism is neither novel nor accurate. I love Devonte, but Mason is second team All Big 12 two years in a row. But I realize Colby you know more basketball than the people who select the all conference teams.

Mick Allen 3 years, 7 months ago

Elliott I do remember and thanks for refreshing my recollection. It might have been the last time I saw Sherron dunk. He put on so much weight while in college he might have lost some of his "verticality". But what a great, great competitor. Remember he was all Chicago in football [wide receiver?] and baseball[pitcher/infielder?]. His steal and 3 and his hand off to Mario will always be cherished memories for me. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 7 months ago

Is that Durant trailing and thinking he was being set-up only to be left hanging?

So true about his steal and 3 in particular.

Harlan Hobbs 3 years, 7 months ago

Totally agree about Mason. He, Landen, and Devonte are the "heart" of this team. Their leadership is crucial. Hopefully, Carlton and Svi will be in that group as well. Then, Josh Jackson can do his thing without feeling like he has to be the "alpha dog" like Andrew Wiggins was expected to be. Wishful thinking, I suppose, because Josh will be expected to almost walk on water.

Udoka has certainly been impressive, and I do think that he will be a huge success at some point. However, these scrimmage games don't really mean a lot because I am sure the defense is nowhere up to Bill Self's standards.

By the way, has he been cleared by the NCAA? Hope we aren't looking at another round of Diallo. Even though we apparently will have Udoka for two years, we certainly don't need any bumps in the road.

Mike Greer 3 years, 7 months ago

I think the big difference is that Andrew had to walk on water until Joel came up to speed, the entire team was fairly young, it was one of those totally reload years. This coming season, there will certainly be expectations for Josh, but really, even without him, there's a good squad of experienced players, you named 5; Frank, Landen, Devonté, Carlton, and Svi. Two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore, not bad for experience. The 2013/14 team of the guys that got reasonable playing time; 1 Sr. non starter, 1 Jr, 3 Soph. one starter, 7 Frosh. three-four starters. I don't think Josh will have the same level of pressure on him to carry the team as Andrew did. It was hard to understand that at the time, I must admit.

Kerby Rice 3 years, 7 months ago

The POTENTIAL lineup in 2 years of Graham, Thornton/Newman, Svi, Bragg, UA could be one of the best teams KU has ever had. Throw Vick or another bluechipper in the mix if we don't land either of the transfers there is still little if any step off.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 7 months ago

Svi and Bragg are playing their final season at KU but insert Vick and all we will need is another 4 which Self seems to always bring in a 5 Star and we would still have an awesome line-up. I know you said "POTENTIAL" but it's not going to happen.

Still, I'm excited about THIS years team. Let's see how far they get before looking ahead.

Caden Ford 3 years, 7 months ago

So far so good! This team is looking like a great fit to get us to the promise land! haha. Good balance, speed, strength, leadership, veterans, newcomers, alot of pieces that fit the puzzle. Excited for this upcoming season!!

**Also, anyone think Thornton is coming to LFK?? I really like his game and he would be a big get for next season. Just my thoughts!

Harlan Hobbs 3 years, 7 months ago

If it is down to us and USC for Thornton, my hunch is USC if he truly wants to be that close to home. However, KU is a better fit for him because after sitting out for a year under the transfer rules, he would be almost a shoe-in to be Frank Mason's replacement at the combo guard position. Devonte would still be the lead point guard, as he will be this coming year.

Would love to get Newman also, but I agree with the person(s) who said the other day that, of the two, Thornton would have the most impact for KU.

Gary Bedore 3 years, 7 months ago

Just when the obscene Mizzou Tshirts finally disappeared from campus, LFK is taking the city by storm. I normally am not against trends but I think it's kind of lazy whenever a cuss word is used in a popular saying. What do you folks think? LFK yay or nay? Again, I personally think it's lazy and tacky whenever you use that certain word in a saying. Please don't mention the actual word here and keep it civil. I just truly wanted your opinions.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 7 months ago

Light French Kissing? Lenkflugkörper Neue Generation? Little-Fat-Kid? : )

Titus Canby 3 years, 7 months ago

I agree. It's lame. Let's have some dignity.

Gary Bedore 3 years, 7 months ago

And I'm kind of speechless about Azubuike. If he can stay healthy, he really does look like a combination of Shaq and Darnell Jackson.

Colby Hebert 3 years, 7 months ago

Bill Self getting top recruits who cannot jump to the NBA like Svi and AZ is genius. He gets these lottery pick guys who finish high school early and gets them at least 2 years. The 2 and done. Bill Self, bravo. Unleash the muppet babies!

Harlan Hobbs 3 years, 7 months ago

Gary, I must be totally square, but I didn't really know what the acronym you mentioned actually meant. However, since you have described in an appropriate, albeit not specific, way, you are absolutely correct in your judgment. I am no prude, but as others have said, it is indeed a lazy way of expression. Other perfectly acceptable language is available to express one's views, so let's use it.

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