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Udoka Azubuike explains decision to return to KU for junior season

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None by Kansas Basketball

The news came out slowly and from a variety of places a little before 12:30 p.m., central time, on Wednesday afternoon.

So, officially, it will go down as KU big man Udoka Azubuike making a decision to return to Kansas with 11 hours to spare instead of at the 11th hour like his former teammate Svi Mykhailiuk a year ago.

But regardless of the timing or the circumstances surrounding each, in the end the decisions were the same — Azubuike, like Svi, wanted one more year at Kansas.

About 20 minutes after KU coach Bill Self confirmed to the Journal-World that Azubuike would return for the 2018-19 season, KU officials sent out a news release that included a few thoughts from Azubuike.

In it, he explained what went down during the past month and sounded like a young man eager and excited to make another go of it with the Jayhawks.

"I received good feedback from many sources around the NBA over the last month but in the end, after discussing with my family and coaches, we decided it would be in my best interest to return to Kansas for my junior year," Azubuike said in the release. "I want to thank the people in the NBA who gave me this opportunity. I believe it was an important step as I chase my dream to play basketball at the highest level. I'm looking forward to next season and can't wait to get to work with my teammates. Rock Chalk!"

As of Tuesday night, Self still was not fully aware of what Azubuike's decision would be. But the Kansas coach who is set to enter his 16th season with the program — and now has to be looking forward to it a lot more than he would be had Azubuike decided differently — said he never had any issue with the 7-foot center taking his time with the decision.

"He knows he's got to do it and why wouldn't he take the maximum amount of time to try to figure out what all the information is," Self said Tuesday night. "I think he's done that and I don't see anything negative about it."

Asked then what he was hearing from the NBA evaluators who spent time in the past few weeks looking into Azubuike's draft status, Self painted the picture of a player who had more than a few admirers.

"You know what I have heard? I've heard that people are really impressed," Self said. "He played well in Chicago. All our guys did. And I think the opinions people have of him are very, very high. There are a lot of people who think very highly of him and he also knew what his goals were going into the process and what he needed to find out to stay in the draft."

Clearly, those goals and that information were not provided and now Azubuike can flip the switch fully to focusing on his third season with the Jayhawks, which officially gets under way next week when the KU players report to campus for summer school and the start of summer workouts.

One of the biggest things Azubuike likely will hope to get out of his junior season involves his health.

After playing in just 11 games as a true freshman before a wrist injury sidelined him the rest of the way, Azubuike suffered a Grade 1 MCL sprain in his left knee in early March, which caused him to miss KU's three games in the Big 12 tournament and play at less than 100 percent in KU's five NCAA Tournament games.

Seeing what he can do with a full season, along with the feedback he received from the NBA folks during the past month, would surely increase Azubuike's chances of entering the draft in 2019.

Azubuike started 34 games for KU in 2017-18, averaging 13 points and seven rebounds per game. His 77 percent field goal shooting led the nation and set a Big 12 single-season record. He also ranked eighth in the conference with six double-doubles and his 1.7 blocks per game were sixth in the Big 12. He was an All-Big 12 third team selection following the season and also earned a spot on the Academic All-Big 12 second team.

Azubuike has played in 47 games for Kansas, with 40 starts and an 11.1 points-per-game average. He has scored 20 or more points in seven of those 47 games, with each coming during his sophomore season.

The KU center from Nigeria takes career highs of 26 points (vs. Nebraska, Dec. 16, 2017) and 13 rebounds (at Texas, Dec. 29, 2017) into the rest of his KU career.

Comments

Joe Black 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Matt, What do you think DeSousa role will be next year? A player or a spectator? or NBA developmental league? Will the Jayhawks wait to get some sort of clearance from the NCAA before playing him?

Matt Tait 6 months, 2 weeks ago

It's hard to know for sure right now because, obviously, things can change in the months ahead. But, from the sound of things as of today, they're moving forward as if he'll play and be fully cleared to do so.

Time will tell if that's the case or not. But if he can play — and I'd think the odds are decent he will be able to — he'll have a huge role on a very good team.

His athleticism and face-up game will allow for some flexibility next to Dedric Lawson, with Azubuike and David McCormack doing damage inside.

Joe Black 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Thanks Matt. Its always good to hear your perspective.

Craig Carson 6 months, 2 weeks ago

I honestly hope they dont play him with the ASSumption that all is good to go..until the NCAA clears him AGAIN, I think its foolish to play him..we are already in risk of losing the 20 games + FF he played in, why risk a whole season??!!!..KU needs to sit him until they know 100% what his status is and they need to press the NCAA to decide to clear him once and forall (no matter what the FBI finds out) or suspend him until further notice..I just dont wanna see him play and we not know if the games he's in are even gonna count..I say sit him the whole year if need be to be on the safe side

Pius Waldman 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Well opinions are great and others can disagree. It seems you are saying guilty and penalize without a knowledge of what happened.

Craig Carson 6 months, 2 weeks ago

I dont think Silvio is guilty of anything..but he doesnt need to be to ruled ineligible and KU to vacate games..if his guardian did indeed take $$, then the NCAA will act..Id rather Sivlio get punished than the entire team..it wouldnt be fair to the kids on next years team to have to vacate the games they played in because KU choose to play 1 kid that is tied to an FBI investigation..especially if they ASSUME everythings gonna be ok

Greg Ledom 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Doke has to correct his shooting form (of course to correct, one would suggest there is one) and find a 12’ jumper and in. Height and reach will land him a contract and if he can add a jumper, a lot more minutes. They wont say it but, his form had to stick out like a sore thumb.

Dale Rogers 6 months, 2 weeks ago

You must be talking about his jumper from several feet out? Otherwise it's hard to see where his form is a problem given he shot a nation-leading 77%! Away from the basket jumpers and free throws, yes, his form on those needs some work.

Craig Carson 6 months, 2 weeks ago

any jump shot Dok develops will have to come at the next level..you really think Self is gonna be ok with a guy his size shooting 12ft jumpers DURING the game????..Embiid could shot and drive, but Self use him primarily as a post player

Brad Avery 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Very few NBA teams run offenses that utilize pure back to the basket big men. Dok will make a lot of money for himself if he develops his outside shot, free throws and ball handling abilities. He has much of the power and physical abilities of Joel Embiid but not the skills. Regardless, it will be great to see him again in a KU uniform next season. .

Craig Carson 6 months, 2 weeks ago

unfortunately, he will have to develop those skills at the next level..Self isnt gonna want his 7fter taking 12ft jump shots...Dok has a throwback type of game..he will have a spot in the NBA, Dwight Howard has a few good years and all he did was post up..

John Gill 6 months, 2 weeks ago

I don’t agree with everyone saying he has to develop a mid-tange jumper, etc...Udoka will never be an Embiid-type prospect. Dwight Howard, Clint Capella and Deandre Jordan are better role models for him. Which means he needs a quicker leap off the floor so he can use his incredible wing span to impact shots and gather rebounds. He also needs to drop some pounds so he’s quicker up and down the floor to take advantage of unbalanced floor spacing and protect the rim.

James Miller 6 months, 2 weeks ago

I agree. Also, he needs to improve lateral quickness. His cone drill times at the combine were atrocious. Improving in this area will help his overall D immensely.

Mike Greer 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Sure, if he could develop a midrange jumper that would help him tremendously, however, I think there are other areas were he could greatly improve. One is rebounding, on a minute played basis DeSousa out rebounded Dok by a wide margin. For a guy his size and wingspan an average of 7 rebounds a game isn't all that impressive. There are other areas for him to improve, but to my thinking that's a big one.

Robert Brock 6 months, 2 weeks ago

The big guy needs to get the “feel for the game.” Meaning, better understanding, anticipation, moving his feet, getting into the correct position, and understanding the technique of rebounding (blocking out before looking up etc).

He made great strides last season; if he continues to improve, he will be a stud first-round NBA pick for sure.

Rickey Pauler 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Now bring in Rick Barry to teach Azubuike how to shoot free throws.

Pius Waldman 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Don't you think the present coaches know how to teach shooting free throws.

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