Friday, November 2, 2018

Azubuike-Lawson pairing becoming a two-way street

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) is pressured down low by Washburn forward David Salach (40) during the first half of an exhibition, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018, at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) is pressured down low by Washburn forward David Salach (40) during the first half of an exhibition, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018, at Allen Fieldhouse.


Not long after the 2017-18 season ended, and Kansas fans, players and coaches began looking ahead to the season that would follow, one of the first visions that came to mind for many was Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson working his wizardry to get easy buckets for junior center Udoka Azubuike.

And then, Thursday night happened, and the two KU big men flipped the script.

Now, it’s anybody’s guess what will happen and the college basketball world has been put on notice that anything is possible.

For the second exhibition game in a row, Lawson finished with just one assist while Azubuike tallied three, giving him four for the past two outings.

After the opener, Lawson was down on himself for his low assist total. This Thursday, after a 79-52 win by Kansas over Washburn, Lawson was much more interested in talking about Azubuike’s skills than his own numbers.

“Dok is really a pretty good passer,” Lawson said. “Over the last week, we worked on trapping the post and things like that, and he’s been playing pretty well against big guys, against Silvio (De Sousa) and David (McCormack).”

The Ichabods did not have anything resembling any of KU’s big men on their available roster. But they were scrappy and they swarmed Azubuike every time he caught the ball.

“They’re going to double-team me a lot because, pretty much, a lot of teams can’t stop me,” Azubuike said. “So I just kind of figured out, when I get double-teamed, pass the ball or take two dribbles, just find ways to avoid turning it over.”

On one particular play, the magic potion for Azubuike was patience.

After catching the ball on the left block and watching two WU guards come racing his way, Azubuike calmly protected the ball, moved ever so slightly away from the basket to carve out more room to operate and quickly flipped an underhand pass to Lawson for an easy layup under the basket.

“I knew that was coming,” Azubuike explained after the game. “And each time I catch the ball on the block, my eyes are always wide open, trying to see the passes.

“In practice, we work on it — high-low and all that. Usually, I’m always the one trying to pass him the ball on the inside. But it was good just seeing everything that we’ve been practicing work out in a game.”

That vision and patience is merely part of the bond developing between KU’s two dynamic big men. Although they bring different things to the table and have different strengths and preferred modes and areas of operation, when the two are in harmony, it’s clearly good news for the Kansas offense.

“Me and Dedric, we’ve been working a lot,” Azubuike said. “He’s a really talented guy, a skillful guy that can play in and out. We’ve got a chemistry going on right now.”

Just because Lawson was the benefactor of a few Azubuike assists this preseason does not mean that things cannot go the other way, as well — the way everybody envisioned it going in the first place.

“Right, right, definitely,” Azubuike confirmed Thursday.

KU coach Bill Self has called Lawson the best passer he’s had at Kansas and the belief around the program is that a lot of Lawson’s vision and many of his best passes this season will wind up in the hands of Azubuike.

“I definitely want to give him the ball,” Lawson said. “Udoka’s a hard guy to stop when he’s in the paint, rolling. He finishes so well around the rim. Most of his points are dunks. So we’ve got to just keep feeding Dok.”


Steve Zimmerman 2 years, 3 months ago

"Most of his points are dunks. So we’ve got to just keep feeding Dok.”

It depends. If you keep feeding him through hi-low entry pass, good luck with that. That'd work in the '90s. If you feed him through penetration like Marcus did vs Washburned, there's a higher chance. If you feed him after a pick n roll, make him move his feet quicker, he should be able to finish it. But for his personal development, and to the team's success, Dok needs to learn fast, learn how to shoot jumpers. Being able to post, but come out and shoot a jumper. Establish that skill, he will be able to fake the jumper next time and finish strong to the basket. He will be a more complete player. C'mon Dok, you've overcome your FT woe. You're ready to obtain more skills. Don't settle for dunks only. Grab a jumprope - start with that.

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 3 months ago

With Dok in the middle and Dedric with his ball handling and range, we are ALMOST a 4 guard offense except for one guard being a highly skilled PF. I agree w/Steve in the need for Dok to expand his game asap but he has been held back by his need to stay on the court. Dok will be near the top in player development this year as having other bigs will free him up to do more.

I think this years team will also be able to play the hi/low better than last years team but I hope we are running and gunning and using our depth to put teams away.

Not having Silvio available would likely have ended any attempt of platooning as I see him 2nd behind Dedrick with his ball handling skills as a big. Not having Silvio available does limit our ceiling but look for Lightfoot to have made another large step forward.

When I see the success Coach Self has had in bringing players along who were not in the top 50, I find it harder to believe that now he needs Adidas's help in landing big-time McD's or top 25 platers.

I personally hope the G-League becomes the destination for top players whose families are in need. I'd like to see it on the same level as the minors in baseball.

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