Friday, May 6, 2016

Self: Azubuike “an impact guy right off the bat”

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)


For the second time this week, Kansas University men's basketball coach Bill Self was able to make public his comments about one of his shiny, new prospects.

Earlier in the week, Self spoke publicly about No. 1 overall recruit Josh Jackson, who made his commitment to Kansas official by signing his letter of intent. Friday, Self followed that up with the acknowledgement that 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike had done the same.

As is the case with Jackson, Self is expecting big things from his new big man right away.

“We feel Udoka is as good as a big-man prospect as there is in the country,” Self said in a news release. “He’s got size, strength, explosiveness and is so young. Being only 16 years old, his best ball is well ahead of him. One fortunate thing about Udoka’s age is we know he has to be in school for at least two years due to the NBA minimum age requirements. We see him as an impact guy right off the bat with a high ceiling.”

Azubuike is the second 16-year-old in recent years to commit to Kansas, joining Ukrainian sensation Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who will be a junior with the Jayhawks when Azubuike suits up this season.

On the prep all-star circuit earlier this year, Azubuike scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds in the McDonald's All-American game on March 29 and also played in the Jordan Brand Classic in New York on April 15.

The native of Nigeria also competed for the World Team at the Nike Hoops Summit on April 9 in Portland.

“(Assistant coach) Norm (Roberts) was the point man in his recruitment,” Self said. “It has been an absolute pleasure in getting to know Udoka and also his guardians, Harry and Donna Coxsome. Being in the United States for a short period, we have seen so much development in his comfort level, not only with us but with the surroundings and everything that goes along with basketball in the States.”

Azubuike is ranked No. 22 overall by ESPN100, No. 27 by and No. 34 by He joins Jackson and forward Mitch Lightfoot as the official signees in KU's 2016 class.


Joe Joseph 2 years, 10 months ago

I'll believe it when I see it. And I don't mean that as a knock against UA. I just mean that Bill Self doesn't play freshmen big men, especially when there are veterans on the team.

Dale Rogers 2 years, 10 months ago

Actually, he plays whichever player gives us the best chance of winning. He as stated that over and over. If that's a freshman, that freshman will play. Most often freshmen need some work before they fit in that scenario but occasionally it takes only a short time (Wiggins) or possibly no time at all. We'll see but don't rule it out just because it rarely happens.

Bert White 2 years, 10 months ago

Actually got pretty curious so threw together a quick list of freshmen PF/C games played and minutes during Coach Self's reign;

Year Name GP Minutes

15-16 Carlton Bragg Jr. 38 8.9

15-16 Cheick Diallo 27 7.5 *Eligibility issues

14-15 Cliff Alexander 28 17.6 *Eligibility issues

13-14 Joel Embiid 28 23.1

13-14 Landen Lucas 22 4.9 *Red shirt

12-13 Perry Ellis 37 13.6

12-13 Jamari Traylor 37 9.6 *Red shirt

09-10 Thomas Robinson 33 7.2

08-09 Marcus Morris 35 18.5

08-09 Markieff Morris 35 15.6

08-09 Quintrell Thomas 26 5.4

07-08 Cole Aldrich 40 8.3

06-07 Darrell Arthur 38 19

04-05 Sasha Kaun 27 10

04-05 C.J. Giles 21 8.3

04-05 Darnell Jackson 24 7

03-04 David Padgett 31 19.2

Next season we'll likely start Lucas and Bragg, than our bench will have Coleby, Azubuike, and Lightfoot battling for the other minutes unless we sign another big. I love that Azubuike will be atleast a 2 year player though because of his age, so I expect some PT for him since there's a solid chance that he'll be our 2017-18 starting center.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 10 months ago

Impressive work. It would be even more effective if you had included and sorted by Rival ranking or ESPN grade or something like that.

Name, Rivals Rank, Pts, Games

Joel Embiid 3 23.1 28

Cliff Alexander 4 17.6 28

Cheick Diallo 5 7.5 27

David Padgett 7 19.2 31

Darrell Arthur 16 19 38

Carlton Bragg Jr. 21 8.9 38

Perry Ellis 24 13.6 37

Jamari Traylor 27 9.6 37

Markieff Morris 29 15.6 35

Cole Aldrich 30 8.3 40

Thomas Robinson 31 7.2 33

Sasha Kaun 34 10 27

Marcus Morris 49 18.5 35

Darnell Jackson 54 7 24

C.J. Giles 62 8.3 21

Quintrell Thomas 149 5.4 26

Landen Lucas 150 4.9 22

There are situational aberrations (Cole playing behind 3 experienced bigs, Morii having no one in front), but for the most part the better players play and score more. The biggest indicator against UA is the number of experienced bigs already on the team. Like Cole though, he might be situationally productive and really blossom after a year when others leave. That would be fabulous.

(Thanks for the data Bert)

Brian Wilson 2 years, 10 months ago

As I said the day he announced. Unless we sign another big, Az will be starting come March Madness. Lightfoot will not be strong enough to play PF in March. So Az starts and Lucas will rotate behind Bragg. If Diallo were to somehow miraculously come back then things change as well. Everyone wants to bag on Az for his footwork. By the end of the season his footwork will have improved somewhat and for what he does, Block shots, dunk, and use his body well to get to the basket, his foot work is good enough for now.

BTW, nice list! I thought of about half those guys when I read that comment as well.

Aaron Paisley 2 years, 10 months ago

UA has to be able to play more than 4-5 trips up the floor without huffing and puffing for air to play starters minutes. UA is going to be 4th big in the rotation because of his conditioning. This is a team that wants to play fast and with UA on the floor, KU would have to play at a snails pace which will hurt KU next year.

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 10 months ago

At this point, I'm not sure having Diallo come back would be considered miraculous. Bill Self has moved on and I'm not sure how Diallo coming back would affect next year's team chemistry.

Could be wrong..

Dirk Medema 2 years, 10 months ago

The 4 spot seems to be much more of a mobile position than Lucas is even close to. A big improvement in his effectiveness last year was when he realized his limitations, and didn't try to be a creative force on O. He became the structure that the others built off of. He is an anchor 5. I think his game can continue to grow, but it seems real unlikely that he ever becomes a 4 in college. Even less likely than TRob, who had to switch to the 5 and send Withey to the bench many times. I'm just not seeing Landon as more mobile that Thomas.

Suzi Marshall 2 years, 10 months ago

Totally agree. Self is being encouraging to AZ. AZ has about the slowest feet I've ever seen. It's going to take a solid year working on his agility and strength. Plus, he needs to learn how to play. We've had back to back bigs, Alexander and Diallo, that never learned.

Freddie Garza 2 years, 10 months ago

I thought so too from the first time I saw him. He's got an NBA center's body right now at 7 feet tall and 275 pounds, a lot of which looks like muscle. As a post defender, it's hard to imagine a guy with that kind of size and I'm assuming strength, being outbodied for position on the block, or being outbodied while blocking out for rebounds. Or for that matter, having much of a problem bullying his way into offensive position right under the basket.

From that standpoint, I also see him having an immediate impact.

If the staff can give him one or two go-to post moves...who knows, maybe he's Shaq.

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 10 months ago

I don't see Udoka starting this season as Lucas has solidified his position in the second half of last season but I think his minutes will increase as long as he learns how to avoid fouls. I've seen his weight listed anywhere between 260 and 290 and that could be an issue but in all the videos I've seen, he appears to carry his weight well. He is just one of those large frame guys but I'm doubt he has ever seen anyone like Andrea Hudy before and will lose any excess pounds..

I see this guy making an impact next season but he could become a real force depending on how long he can hold off the lore of the NBA and keep his family away from the leeches trying to cash in on a young kid from Nigeria.

Nice research Bert.

Aaron Paisley 2 years, 10 months ago

Didn't UA say he was somewhere around 290 at the Hoops Summit or one of the other all star games? This kid needs to spend a ton of time with Hudy scuplting his body. Drop him to the 260 range and get rid of his baby fat and then build up the muscle mass while improving his cardio. UA isn't in good enough shape to play at the tempo this team needs to play at next year to be their most effective. He's a guy that will force KU to play at a snail's pace because of his cardio issues. That'll be better for KU in 2017-18 when KU has much less experience and possibly much less athleticism on the floor and the slower tempo would benefit KU that year, but not this upcoming year.

Robert Brock 2 years, 10 months ago

As a freshman - 10 to 15 minutes, tops. Plenty of PT as a sophomore.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 10 months ago

It would seem to me that Jarrett Allen waiting to make his commitment, is in some ways parallel to Chieck waiting to decide if he is in the draft or not. No reason to commit and then find the bench that much more clogged with Bigs working for position to get on the court as well as R's. I like our chances with him waiting.

What an incredible front court to return in 17-18 after learning behind starters this year. Next man up from a whole new perspective.

Steve Macy 2 years, 10 months ago

"Impact", does not mean a starter. RCJH, teach him well Coach Self and staff.

Tony Bandle 2 years, 10 months ago

! think Azu's biggest "impact" will be in practice when he lays out just about anybody who comes near his basket!! :). Landen better wear body armor.

I wonder if anyone mentioned boot camp to the big guy??

I side with you guys who think 10 - 15 minutes per game while he learns what the heck he is doing, HOWEVER, foul trouble, injury, match up issues or the coach's wrath over poor play could change the landscape of playing time in a heartbeat.

Suzi Marshall 2 years, 10 months ago

No way he'll get that much time in conference play. If for no other reason, he would foul out before 5 minutes have passed.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 10 months ago

Lots of conditioning and learning possible by January. He's obviously very new to the game, so there is the potential for lots of development.

Someone is obviously backing up Landon (presumed starter), which seems to come down to will it be UA or Dwight. Not sure how anyone here has a reasonable eval of Dwight at this point, much less a comparison between the 2. One of the 2 is very likely to be getting those minutes in conference play.

Jeff Coffman 2 years, 10 months ago

Stay out of foul trouble and you will get the minutes....problem with a lot of freshmen is the speed, everyone has height and big foul to compensate. Slow the game down rim protect and self will find as much time as your 5 fouls will allow.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 10 months ago

I'd add learn the D.

Landon got minutes last year because he was the player that best understood help D, and to a lesser extent O. It slows the reaction of the guards if they have to worry about and direct Cheick as Frank did numerous times.

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