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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

KU’s Azubuike named Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year

PG Devon Dotson also named to first team

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)

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Plagued by injuries throughout his first three seasons with the program, Kansas senior Udoka Azubuike enters his senior season as the cream of the crop in the Big 12 Conference.

Azubuike on Wednesday was named the Big 12’s Preseason Player of the Year.

He becomes the ninth Jayhawk of all time to claim the distinction and is the second in the past three seasons, following Devonte’ Graham in 2017.

Prior to that, the last time a Jayhawk was named preseason player of the year was in 2009, when Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins shared the honor.

"It's great to be recognized as the preseason player of the year," Azubuike said Wednesday evening, 30 minutes before the team hosted the 10th annual Ladies Night Out at Allen Fieldhouse. "I mean, it's really nothing. I've just got to go out there and prove it and work hard with my team."

One of the toughest one-on-one match-ups for opponents in all of college basketball throughout his time at KU, the 7-foot Azubuike played in just nine games a season ago before a second significant wrist injury — on his opposite arm — derailed yet another season. He averaged 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game during those nine games while shooting 71% from the floor.

Kansas coach Bill Self said Wednesday that his hopes were as high as ever for his 7-foot senior.

"I expect him to be the best big man in the country," Self said.

As a sophomore, Azubuike led the nation with a 77% field goal clip, which ranked as the second best single-season mark in NCAA history. He averaged 13 points and seven rebounds per game that year while helping lead Kansas to the 2018 Final Four.

"I think he deserves that," Self said of Azubuike's honor. "And I think he needs to play to an All-American status for us. He's going to get opportunities, but his opportunities will be in large part determined by how well we shoot the ball from the perimeter. Because if we don't, everybody will put two guys on him. But I do think this will excite him, which is good. Especially when you've been in a situation where you haven't played two of the three years you've been here."

Although Azubuike conceded that any individual honors are nice, Azubuike recently said the good of the team trumps all.

“I think we have a really good team this year," Azubuike said at KU's annual media day last week. "I am looking forward to it. Obviously, every team wants to win the (NCAA) Championship, they want to go to the Final Four. This team is aiming for that too. But right now we are just taking it one game at a time. Hopefully we achieve our goals.”

As for his own personal goals, Azubuike said staying healthy was at the top of that list.

"It's really important for me," he said. "I've been struggling with injuries and this year I'm just praying for a different outcome. Every time I step on the floor, I always try to bring my best, play my best, and this year won't be any different."

Joining Azubuike on the Preseason All-Big 12 Team is fellow Jayhawk Devon Dotson along with Tristan Clark (Baylor), Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State) and Desmond Bane (TCU).

Dotson, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound sophomore, started every game of his freshman season for Kansas in 2018-19 and ranked 12th in the Big 12 in scoring at 12.3 points per game. A native of Charlotte, N.C., Dotson was a member of the 2019 All-Big 12 Third Team and the league’s all-freshman team.

Earlier this month, he was named one of 20 candidates for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award.

Dotson, like Azubuike, said the honors should be kept in perspective.

"I mean, that's preseason," Dotson said. "We haven't touched the court this season, so, yeah, it doesn't matter."

As for Azubuike's recognition, Dotson called it big for the program as a whole.

"It only brings more excitement and hype to the season," Dotson said. "We're excited to get things going."

Also on Wednesday morning, Texas Tech’s Chris Clarke, a transfer from Virginia Tech, and West Virginia’s Oscar Tshiebwe were named Preseason Newcomer and Freshman of the Year.

The honors were voted on by the Big 12 coaches, who were not allowed to vote for their own players. The preseason coaches poll is scheduled to be released Thursday.

2019-20 Preseason All-Big 12 Team

Tristan Clark (Baylor, F, 6-9, 240, Jr.)

Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State, G, 6-5, 172, So.)

Udoka Azubuike (Kansas, C, 7-0, 270, Sr.)

Devon Dotson (Kansas, G, 6-2, 185, So.)

Desmond Bane (TCU, G, 6-6, 215, Sr.)

Honorable Mention: Xavier Sneed (K-State), Kristian Doolittle (Oklahoma), Yor Anei (Oklahoma State), Matt Coleman (Texas), Chris Clarke (Texas Tech), Davide Moretti (Texas Tech), Jahmi’us Ramsey (Texas Tech), Derek Culver (West Virginia)

All-Time Kansas Preseason Big 12 Players of the Year

2019-20 – Udoka Azubuike

2017-18 – Devonte’ Graham

2009-10 – Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins

2006-07 – Brandon Rush and Julian Wright

2004-05 – Wayne Simien

1997-98 – Raef LaFrentz

1996-97 – Jacque Vaughn

Comments

Freddie Garza 1 month ago

I love these Rambo-like faces that Azubuike makes when he attacks the rim LOL!

Dane Pratt 1 month ago

Hadn't noticed it but now that you mention it, it is a very Rambo-like expression.

Dirk Medema 1 month ago

With Oscar and Derek, WVU might be one of the few teams able to match up with our frontline. Not sure about their depth or the rest of the team.

Interesting that TT got 3 HM.

Barry Weiss 1 month ago

Congratulations Dok! Thanks for all your hard work and hopefully it pays off this year with a Jayhawk NC and a lotto pick for you!

Brett McCabe 1 month ago

I love Dok. I’m glad that there is an avenue for his immense physical capabilities. I’m sorry that he can’t run up and down the floor more than four times without a Sherpa feeding him oxygen, or that he is brittle. The loud-mouthed dipsht who makes millions playing for the Sixers has all of the same issues. And both of them have the same number of NCAA Championships. I guess that I like Dok better because he’s not a loud-mouthed dipsht who has never won anything. He’s just a kid trying to make it. Unfortunately, he has a lot of dim-witted, money-grabbing people in his life - including his head coach - so it probably won’t end well. But I’ll still love him. He seems like a great kid who is trying his best. That is something that I can respect. That....is being a Jayhawk. Just like Perry and Danny and Clyde and Frank and Raef and Steve. And many, many others - Lynette, Andrea, Diamond - for example.

I’m actually hoping that the NCAA gives this dirty program a death penalty. Fire everyone. Bring back Snoop. Get real. Every time I read an article about the basketball program, I feel and urgent need to take a shower and follow that up with a Silkwood Shower. And then ask one of those guys with flame throwers in “Saving Private Ryan” to give me a flame shower.

My time at KU was transformative. Literally. Figuratively. It’s so, so, so, disappointing to watch the athletic department bumble-f*ck their way through everything....over and over and over again. And constantly embarrass the university.

I hope that Dok wins Big 12 player of the year. And so does Devon and Marcus and Mitch. I also hope that the slime in the athletic department gets power-washed away so I can talk, walk and pounce like a proud Jayhawk again. Dok: I love you man. Dunk the sh*t out of it. Get a contract. Be bigger than the place you went to school.

Barry Weiss 1 month ago

lay off the late night drinking.

Dane Pratt 1 month ago

Brett, you’re probably right. KU did in all likelihood do some things that were not above board but it’s naïve to think that college athletics is some altruistic entity where students participate for the love of the game and an education. It’s a cesspool of cheating and corruption. Always has been and always will be. Virtually every program has cut corners. Just the fact that colleges routinely accept athletes with substandard grades is evidence enough that they are willing to circumvent the notion of higher education in the name of winning. You want a squeaky clean program? Look for another sport to follow because you won’t find it in college basketball (or football). It wasn’t squeaky clean before Bill Self arrived in Lawrence and it won’t be after he leaves.

Tony Bandle 1 month ago

Random Thoughts:

1] I wonder what the over/under is in Vegas on when will Dok suffer his annual season ending injury. I'm praying for it not to happen, saying novenas for his health and asking the basket gods to spare him but, sometimes, what will be, will be I am afraid. [Please, someone, talk me off of the ledge!!]

2] At least, this year, with Big Mac and Silvio available, it won't be nearly as devastating.

3] Brett, was your KU transformation a good thing or a bad thing...I'm not being a smart ass, my friend, I interpret that it was good. I know mine was life changing in every positive way possible.

4] The NCAA, vindictive bitches that they are, are going to cut Kansas down at the knees. WHY??.......because they can!

5] The results of Snoop Dog at KU could for tell the voter division of next year's election.

6] It would sure be nice if all we had to worry about was Dok's foul,shooting as opposed to eligibility issues, forfeited games, probation, post season bans, years of repercussions on the recruiting front, legacy stains and administrative foul play/incompetence.

Robert Brock 1 month ago

Azubuike has range to three (feet).

Steve Zimmerman 1 month ago

Good for Dok to receive all the praises, POY, whatevs.. But unfortunately, Brett, as much as we all love Dok, he won't earn that much in the league, until he can improve his FT, hops, rebounds, blocks, and jumpers. He won't survive in the league. I don't believe he's improved his stamina, yet. He still looks too heavy and slooow - trust me.

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