Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Azubuike, Elliott cleared to return to action for KU basketball program

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) looks to the basket as Tennessee forward Kyle Alexander (11) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in New York. Kansas won 87-81 in overtime. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) looks to the basket as Tennessee forward Kyle Alexander (11) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in New York. Kansas won 87-81 in overtime. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)


Kansas senior Udoka Azubuike, who missed all but nine games of the 2018-19 season because of the second significant wrist injury of his career, has been cleared to return to basketball activities.

Azubuike, who suffered the injury to his right wrist during a practice just before the start of Big 12 play last December — shortly after returning from an ankle sprain that also forced him to miss a few nonconference games — continued to work on his conditioning and support his teammates throughout the 2018-19 season while sitting in street clothes on game nights.

His return was one of three crucial offseason storylines that figure to play a big role in what kind of team Kansas coach Bill Self can field during the 2019-20 season.

On Tuesday morning, Self was a guest on Andy Katz’s podcast, “March Madness 365,” and the two talked about Azubuike’s return.

“He hasn’t been full speed or contact yet,” Self said of the 7-foot senior from Nigeria, who suffered almost the exact same injury to his left wrist during his freshman season at KU. "They let him put a ball in his wrist about the last 4-6 weeks, but no contact. … We’ll probably bring him in slowly, but he can start working out and there shouldn’t be any limitations.”

The magnitude of the impact of Azubuike’s return, both to the court and to KU for his senior season, was not lost on Katz or Self.

“His growth has probably been stunted a little bit (because of injuries), but, at full potential, I think he could probably be as good of a back-to-the-basket, true 5 man as there is,” Self said. “I think he can be the hardest back-to-the-basket player to guard. You know, he’s just so big and athletic and he’s got soft hands. And he was off to a pretty good start last year. When you talk about patrolling the paint, there won’t be many out there who can do it like he can.”

Azubuike, sans cast, was over in Topeka on Tuesday afternoon helping work the Washburn basketball camp. In addition to signing autographs and playing around with campers during drills, the 7-footer talked to the campers about work ethic, living in and enjoying every moment and giving your all every time you step on the court.

Azubuike on Tuesday declined interview requests from a handful of reporters at Washburn’s Lee Arena.

Elliott healthy

Speaking of walk-ons and injuries, Elijah Elliott, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound redshirt freshman from Carroll High School in Southlake, Texas, said Tuesday that he, too, had been medically cleared to resume basketball activity after rehabbing a torn meniscus in his right knee that forced him to miss his freshman season at KU.

Elliott said he was fully cleared late last week and planned to get back on the court with his teammates for the first time in months during the Jayhawks’ first team workout of the summer on Tuesday. Summer classes also began Tuesday.

“Fully cleared, I’m back,” Elliott said. “Having to sit out last year was different, but it was a good learning experience. I think it taught me a lot about who I was. Before the injury, I didn’t know, mentally, how to prepare for stuff down the road.”

In addition to being thrilled about his own return, Elliott also said he was looking forward to his first glimpse of the 2019-20 Jayhawks.

“It’s always fun coming back and seeing everybody and seeing what they’ve worked on and getting to know your new teammates,” he said. “It’s always a good time.”


Marius Rowlanski 1 year, 10 months ago

Cleared? The NCAA will be its own downfall.

Dave Miller 1 year, 10 months ago

"Cleared" probably means cleared by the medical staff that treated the wrist injury for Udoka and the knee injury for Elliott.

Thomas Green 1 year, 10 months ago

I hope Self has forbade Dok from dunking in practice...heck, put a quarterback style red jersey on him and make sure everyone knows not to touch him! Seriously though, I’m hoping he has a great and productive season.

Dane Pratt 1 year, 10 months ago

We’ve had some painful injuries that have hurt us in the tournament. Archie Marshall, Jerod Haase, Wayne Simien, Joel Embiid. Our history would/could be different had these guys not gone down. I'm praying to the basketball gods for Udoka's health.

Titus Canby 1 year, 10 months ago

If Haase plays the full game against Arizona, we'd have another national championship. He was a "refuse to lose" player.

With Archie Marshall, what the was the home game that Larry let him limp onto the floor to shoot a 30' shot? I remember the crowd (and me) going wild.

Dane, thanks the trip down memory lane.

Austin Bergstrom 1 year, 10 months ago

Don't know how you couldn't remember it was the last home game for the seniors if you were there? I believe it was OSU and they let him receive the inbounds pass and shoot from deep. Class act by the other team.

Dane Pratt 1 year, 10 months ago

Didn't Larry draft Archie when he became head coach of the Spurs? It was a symbolic gesture since he had no chance of making the team.

Barry Weiss 1 year, 10 months ago

damn its going to be great to have Dok back out there! Add in Silvio and Big Mac who was coming on strong last year, we will be tough in the paint. Come to think of it, Dok was coming on strong when he left, Silvio was a beast in the dance the year before last, and Big Mac was really clicking late last year. I'm pumped!

Tim Orel 1 year, 10 months ago

My concern was about Dok and Dedric not being able to figure out how to play together last year. With Dok in, Dedric really couldn't shine. He finally did when Dok was out of the lineup, which might cause problems this year. I just hope Dok and the other bigs complement each other rather than get in each other's way.

Dwayne Mudd 1 year, 10 months ago

Don't forget about Mitch!!! He's wirey!!!

Dennis Gaskill 1 year, 10 months ago

I was watching a college volleyball game and the announcers were saying there was a new emphasis for the girls to come down on both feet after a block or a spike. Supposedly this was cutting down on injuries by quite a bit. I remember Dok landing several degrees off of perpendicular on one foot a few times Needless to say, cringe worthy moments. Not quite the same as basketball when you are colliding with another 7ft rebounder, but just a thought! Stay healthy Guys and find some outside scoring. It may be fun this year!

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