NBA early-entry deadline passes with no word from KU center Udoka Azubuike


Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) hangs on the rim after a dunk before Louisiana forward Malik Marquetti (1) during the second half, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) hangs on the rim after a dunk before Louisiana forward Malik Marquetti (1) during the second half, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The NBA’s early-entry deadline for the 2019 draft has passed without so much as a peep out of Kansas junior Udoka Azubuike.

While that does not mean that the 7-foot center who tested the waters last year only to return for his junior season at Kansas, did not declare for the draft, it certainly makes such a scenario more likely.

But Sunday’s news — or lack thereof — does not exactly create a crystal clear picture of Azubuike’s future.

While keeping a declaration from the public eye suggests that Azubuike will return to KU for his senior season in 2019-20, it does not guarantee it by any means.

There’s always the chance that Azubuike, who missed all but nine games of the 2018-19 season because of an injured wrist, could have been waiting to announce a decision — either way — until after Easter, perhaps sometime Monday.

KU coach Bill Self, as late as 7 p.m. Sunday night, told the Journal-World he had not heard a final decision from Azubuike and Self, last week at KU’s season-ending team banquet, told Azubuike in front of a crowd of more than 500 KU supporters that the program would always have the big man’s back.

“I tell Dok this all the time and I do believe this,” Self said at the banquet. “He’s going to get the last laugh on everybody. But his attitude’s gotta stay great and I’m so proud, first of all, how he handled being hurt the second time, his sophomore year, and how he handled this year. He was still positive, he was not a negative guy, even though his window of opportunity was shrinking on him and, no, there was nothing he could do to change it. I thought his attitude was unbelievable. And, Dok, just hang in there and whatever you decide to do you’ve got us, no matter what. Love ya. And you’ll get the last laugh.”

Twitter was abuzz throughout the day Sunday with KU fans waiting for word from Azubuike. A hashtag “UdokaWatch2019” was a popular place to mine for information and KU fans and media members continually checked in about the decision throughout the day.

Azubuike’s decision whether to test or not likely was made more difficult by the fact that he is not expected to be cleared for full basketball activities until June. The wrist injury he suffered as a true freshman — identical injury, opposite hand — kept him from returning in full until the summer and could have caused an issue with teams wondering if he could workout in the coming weeks or attend the NBA’s pre-draft combine.

Azubuike attended the pre-draft combine in 2018 and received valuable feedback about what NBA personnel wanted to see from him during his junior season. Unfortunately for the native Nigerian, the injury bug hit again just before Big 12 play and Azubuike did not get to show whether he had improved in certain areas or not.

The two wrist injuries are among five significant injuries Azubuike has suffered during his time with the Jayhawks.

The first wrist injury, which hit in late December of his freshman year, cost him all but 11 games of his rookie season. After that, a lingering back issue that flared up but did not causee him to miss time midway through his sophomore season and a serious knee injury that hit just before the Big 12 tournament of the 2016-17 season, cost him part of the postseason. And before his second wrist injury during the 2018-19 season, Azubuike missed several games because of a severe ankle sprain.

One of the things some NBA officials wanted to see is what Azubuike could do with a full season of injury-free basketball.

Whether Azubuike stays or goes, the Jayhawks still have plenty of work to do on the recruiting trail in the coming months and plenty of resources with which to work.

As of Sunday night, KU had six scholarships available to add players to the 2019 class that currently consists of 4-star guards Christian Braun and Issac McBride.

Those scholarships became available when K.J. Lawson and Charlie Moore announced their decisions to transfer and Dedric Lawson, Quentin Grimes, Devon Dotson and Silvio De Sousa declared for the 2019 NBA Draft.

Any of that foursome that declared for the draft — along with Azubuike — could return to KU next season provided they follow NCAA rules regarding their work with agents and withdraw their names from the draft pool by May 29.

De Sousa has said he will be back if he wins his appeal of a two-year NCAA suspension. And people close to the KU program believe Lawson and Grimes are likely gone and Dotson is a likely candidate to return.

Those realities figure to make the next several weeks both busy and incredibly interesting as the KU coaching staff races to refill its roster, with or without Azubuike in tow. As of deadline time on Sunday night, though, all signs were pointing toward that being with Azubuike in the lineup for the 2019-20 Jayhawks.


Caden Ford 1 year, 1 month ago

Great article Matt - Thanks for keeping us updated!

Todd Jensen 1 year, 1 month ago

Is there any chance that Doc could get a medical redshirt for last year? I know everyone sees him playing professionally, but at least having that as a back up might be a reason to stay, if only so he can demonstrate that he is what the NBA is looking for by being able to play a full year of injury free basketball.

Matt Tait 1 year, 1 month ago

Definitely a chance, but those are usually applied for at the end of a player's career, which is to say, if he plays out his senior season in 2019-20, he could apply for a fifth year of eligibility at the end of next season and, if granted, be eligible for 2020-21.

As you probably know already, though, Azubuike probably isn't sticking around long enough to go that deep into his eligibility. You never know, though.

Todd Jensen 1 year, 1 month ago

Thanks for this information. At least we now know Dok is coming back. Now to just get a few more players around him that can help us be successful!

Andrew Holmes 1 year, 1 month ago

Does he wait to see what the results are from SDS’s appeal? I imagine they are extremely close and if SDS comes back then maybe Dok decides he’ll come back?

Matt Tait 1 year, 1 month ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Mike Bennett 1 year, 1 month ago

I understand the NBA drafts on potential, and I thought Grimes was a solid player, but I didn't see anything about his game that shouted NBA. Everything he did was just average at best. I don't know why he thinks he should stay in the draft. He has G-league written all over him right now.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 1 month ago

I would suggest you were blinded by what you didn't see, which was mostly consistency. His passing was pretty phenomenal at times. He's also a big guard with the potential to be deadly from 3. Neither was as consistent as we would like, but it was definitely there to see.

I'm not saying that I expect him to get drafted, but as Matt commented recently in his really good article on the subject, sometimes young people get an idea in their heads, and it doesn't matter what else happens.

Andy Godwin 1 year, 1 month ago

Just glad that Garrett, Elliott, Teahan, Luinstra, Agbaji, McCormack, and Lightfoot did not declare. Need to be able to field a team next season.

Jonathan Allison 1 year, 1 month ago

  1. Self could easily win 20+ games with that group, and possibly keep the NCAA tourney streak alive.

  2. I would love to see Dok back at KU, but good luck to him no matter what he decides.

Steve Corder 1 year, 1 month ago

Nice article, Matt.

What would you advise Dok to do?

Matt Tait 1 year, 1 month ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 1 year, 1 month ago

Interesting. I would think we'd get an update sometime today. I'm hopeful he'll return but not convinced until I hear it from him. He already went to the combine and the feedback was have an injury free season and show he can shoot the ball and make some post moves - not just dunk it. Obviously he wasn't able to show improvement this year, so coming back would make sense but he wanted to go pro last year, so we'll see if he's willing to invest one more season. He'll be the front court centerpiece on next year's team if so.

Lance Iamnot 1 year, 1 month ago

I would be extremely interested to know what actionable information Udoka is receiving from his non-KU advisors. I get that all these kids want to be pros and not in college. However, unlike Grimes, who had decided to leave college after one year before he even started college and did not need any information on a decision he already made in high school, Udoka seems to be straddling the fence. I question whether or not Udoka and most others like him receive any actionable information, and instead merely hear conjecture, and at best, guesswork from their sources.

Meaning, his (their) decision one way or the other is likely to come down to an uninformed shot in the dark.

Barry Weiss 1 year, 1 month ago

I see his return to KU as the best option for him. If he has a solid season, injury free, it proves to scouts next year that he is worth being drafted. If his season is not that great, or he gets injured again, he can always try the Europe route at that point. I just don't see the benefit to punt this last chance to boost your NBA stock.

Keith Gellar 1 year, 1 month ago

His best option is the NBA D-league - He will not only get to focus on bball 100%, get paid and receive top notch professional development capabilities.

He comes back to KU, there's a 60% chance he injures him self. Just look at the trend for Ku and big men. If i'm his handler, if i see an opening for NBA D-league, i take it in a hear beat.

Lance Iamnot 1 year, 1 month ago

If he gets season ending injured again next year I'm not sure there is any route he can take at that point. I recommend he take whatever money he can get now.

Jay Scott 1 year, 1 month ago

Apologies to all.

I had Dok over to shoot some pool and sample some BBQ with a few of the gang. All NCAA compliant of course. And Dok's a minor so no brews...

We got watching that Sharks vs Knights playoff hockey game and the deadline just flew by.

Not to worry. Dok's set on playing another season in Allen to show off his new 3 pt game.

Stuart Corder 1 year, 1 month ago

Great insight into Dok’s options, although if the NBA told him that they wanted to see what he could do with a full, injury free season then it appears declaring for the draft would not be a legitimate option to consider.

Marius Rowlanski 1 year, 1 month ago

Wouldn't be great to see Dok and Silvio playing together in next years title game.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.