Monday, August 8, 2016

Light on numbers, KU basketball’s freshman class as stacked as any

Kansas center Udoke Azubuike sits with skins team players Alec Sievert, left, Brady Johnson and Andrew Nelson during Ben McLemore and Andrew Wiggins' Kansas All-Star Basketball Camp on Wednesday, July 13, 2016 at Sports Pavilion Lawrence.

Kansas center Udoke Azubuike sits with skins team players Alec Sievert, left, Brady Johnson and Andrew Nelson during Ben McLemore and Andrew Wiggins' Kansas All-Star Basketball Camp on Wednesday, July 13, 2016 at Sports Pavilion Lawrence.


During his first 13 seasons in charge of the Kansas basketball program, head coach Bill Self has signed 53 players to the program.

That pans out to about four players per class, with the high of seven coming after the title run in 2008 and the low of two coming twice, in 2007 and 2010.

By those measures, Self’s three-player 2016 class is a little light, but only in terms of bodies. The incoming class, which consists of No. 1 overall prospect Josh Jackson, No. 31 Udoka Azubuike and No. 107 Mitch Lightfoot could go down as one of the more talented, pound for pound.

Self knows that already and praises the group every time he’s asked.

“It’s a good class,” he said during a recent appearance on KLWN’s Rock Chalk Sports Talk. “There’s only three, but you’ve got a headliner and then you’ve got a guy who’s got a chance to be terrific and then you’ve got kind of an unknown guy that we feel like can be a Travis Releford, Elijah Johnson guy that comes in and kind of pays his dues and ends up being a really good player for us.”

The headliner, of course, is Jackson, who continues to create serious buzz at both the NCAA and NBA levels.

Lightfoot is the likely four-year guy who Self believes could follow in the footsteps of past four- and five-year standouts. If he takes that path, his greatest contributions will come not in 2016-17 but more likely in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

And then there’s Azubuike, a young, somewhat raw, athletically gifted center from Nigeria who will not turn 17 until mid-September.

Measured at a shade over 6-11 with a 7-5 wingspan, the newest KU big man already has shown in camp games and summer workouts the ways in which he can impact this roster immediately. Even though he has yet to put specific parameters on his expectations for Azubuike, Self has made it clear that he’s looking forward to seeing just how productive Azubuike can be in Year 1 with the Jayhawks.

“Josh has gotten the majority of the headlines, which he deserves and probably should,” Self said on RCST. “But Udoka has a chance to be a special guy. He’s just so young. But I get excited every time I get a chance to work out with him.”

Asked to elaborate, Self pointed to Azubuike’s physical gifts.

“I just can’t believe, at that age, that he would possess that type of size, strength and athletic ability,” he said.

After a short pause in the grind toward the end of summer break, the Jayhawks are expected to return to campus on Aug. 20, when they will pick up with conditioning exercises in preparation for Late Night in the Phog and the official start of the 2016-17 season on Oct. 1.


Ryan Shelton 5 years, 9 months ago

Judging by the picture at the top of this article, Azubuike isn't the only young recruit we have on campus.

Steve Macy 5 years, 9 months ago

the three with Azubuike, can only give verbal commitments for now.

Martin Rosenblum 5 years, 9 months ago

So he's not 17 yet. Those kids are probably only 7-8 years younger than he is!

Martin Rosenblum 5 years, 9 months ago

Picture looks funny with shirts/skins being Az vs. kids 1/3 his size. As if it would be confusing to tell who the players on which team were. (I wasn't just kids vs. KU players, but not knowing better, it seemed funny to me at least!)

Mike Greer 5 years, 9 months ago

So, he's holding a little kids ball right? ;) He's holding that thing like a softball, I hope it doesn't get too cold in Lawrence this year, he's never going to be able to find a pair of gloves to fit.

Brian Wilson 5 years, 9 months ago

Stop talking about :The Donald" that way will ya!

Jay Scott 5 years, 9 months ago

I have a good feeling about Lightfoot. He seems like a blend of Morningstar and Traylor.

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 9 months ago

I agree, Jay. And he comes from a very good family. I think he will be patient, and when his number is called, he will be ready.

I just love the optics of Udoka mixing with the young boys. KU has a long history of being there for the youth, and it is one of the things about which I am most proud. It's a tribute to the character of the coaches and the players.

Pius Waldman 5 years, 9 months ago

Matt many of us enjoyed Gary Before and his messages. If you know what his plans are many of us would like to know.

Jay Scott 5 years, 9 months ago


I'm sure Gary will keep you posted here.

Matt Tait 5 years, 9 months ago

I'm right there with you. Gary was an all-time great colleague and obviously did a fantastic job for years. I've talked to him quite a bit in the past couple of weeks and he's doing well. I'm pretty sure he has another gig lined up but it's not my place to say what that is. He'll let everyone know as soon as he can. Until then, thanks for continuing to check out the site. We're determined to continue to bring you all of the KU hoops news you can handle.

Have a great night! - Matt

Ann McCall 5 years, 9 months ago

Looking forward to a great basketball season 2016-2017. Does anyone have an idea of the KU basketball schedule for Jan & Feb, probably not available yet. Thanks for any help.

Matt Tait 5 years, 9 months ago

It could be out as soon as this week. Last year they released the conference schedule on Aug. 5 so keep an eye out and we'll have it online as soon as possible.

Craig Jackson 5 years, 9 months ago

Looks like Kramer has some competition in Kah-rah-tay class!

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