Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Tom Keegan: Decision benefits Udoka Azubuike and KU

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) waits to check into the game during the first half, Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) waits to check into the game during the first half, Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan.


Soon, the story of Michael Jordan getting cut from his high school basketball team will grow to the point that the coach not only cut him, but broke his legs with a baseball bat, prompting doctors to tell Jordan he never again would walk.

The truth: As a freshman, Jordan was cut from the varsity. That was enough to fuel one of the most competitive athletes in the history of sports to work even harder. You know the rest of the story.

Not to liken Udoka Azubuike to Jordan, but he is a proud young athlete and the feedback he received from NBA talent experts was akin to not making the cut. They told him to go back to college. So, back to college he went, to the benefit of himself, the Kansas basketball team and its loyal followers.

He returns with the extra motivation of trying to make those who told him that his game wasn’t yet worthy of NBA dollars regret they didn't guarantee him a spot in the first round.

Other than the dunk, his favorite shot, Azubuike’s offensive arsenal sounds more like that of a boxer than a basketball player. He has a left hook and a right hook. That’s not a jab at him, just an honest assessment of his scoring options at the age of 18. He doesn’t turn 19 until Sept. 17.

He also needs work defensively, because most NBA big men have shooting range beyond 20 feet. Villanova’s big men exposed his defensive deficiencies by firing at will from 3-point range.

For what it’s worth, he tested poorly in some agility drills, even for an athlete his size, particularly in the “reactive shuttle run,” in which players start in the middle of the key and run to each side. His 3.65 was the worst time tested and power forward Kostas Anteokounmpo had the second-worst (3.48). They also had the worst lane agility times (12.97, 12.48 for Anteokounmpo).

Conversely, Udoka’s 31-inch standing vertical leap was excellent for such a large man.

He measured just 6-foot-10 without shoes, but had the second-longest wingspan (7-7, 3 inches shorter than Mohamed Bamba, of Texas) and extremely low body fat (7.95 percent).

So, what do all those numbers mean for KU? Nothing that wasn't already known, which is that the Jayhawks will be a lot better with him than they would have been without him.

Azubuike can be far more aggressive defensively this coming season because of all the front-court depth, and when he's tired, he can recharge his battery on the bench.

He made a smart decision for his future and for KU's.


Kenneth Johnson 3 years, 11 months ago

It's certainly a Win-Win for both KU and Dok.

Ken Johnson (KU MS '70)

Author of Kansas University Basketball Legends (2013) and More University of Kansas Basketball Legends (2014), both published by the History Press and available at KU Book Stores, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Tony Bandle 3 years, 11 months ago

KJ, guess you better crank up the typewriter and get started on "Even More University of Kansas Basketball Legends" [2018] and then follow that up with "Believe It Or Not, I've Still Got Even More University of Kansas Basketball Legends" [2021], :) By the way, to all, both are great reads,

Doug Longstaff 3 years, 11 months ago

"most NBA big men have shooting range beyond 20 feet"

This is a debatable statement. 20-22 feet is a bad shot, anyway, because it's more efficient to take a half-step backwards and shoot the three. And only 11 NBA centers, total, made a qualifying number of 3s this season, and only 9 of those hit at or above 33% (which is kind of the magical minimum percentage you should hit if you plan to shoot threes, as 33% from three is roughly equal to 50% from 2).

In short, there are only 11 centers from among 30 NBA teams who quasi-regularly make 3-point shots. And there are only 9 who really should be regularly taking them.

For a better description of why Doke needs to work on his defense, see Tait's article from today. He needs to be able to guard switches far more than he needs to worry about centers lighting it up from three.

Freddie Garza 3 years, 11 months ago

I disagree completely that a 20-22 foot shot is a bad shot JUST because the 3 point line is close. Not only do I disagree, I VEHEMENTLY disagree. In fact, I think it would be beneficial for teams to practice on a court that does NOT have a 3 point line on it, because how many times do we see a player pass up a perfectly good shot because they want to move back behind the 3 point line, and then they end up losing the chance to get a shot off, or missing the 3 pointer when they passed on a look that was a couple of feet closer?

Mid range basketball is becoming a lost art, but for those who focus on it, it's a dangerous weapon.

Doug Longstaff 3 years, 11 months ago

I agree with you on the mid-range game becoming a lost art. I disagree that a 20-22-foot shot is "mid-range." That's a long 2.

You are welcome to disagree about the long 2-pointer being a bad shot. The numbers say that, college or pro, there is not a significant shooting percentage difference between a shot just inside the line and the shot just outside the line. If you have to make 50 of one shot when making 33 at a slightly longer distance would get you the same result, then you're better off taking the slightly longer shot.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 11 months ago

Doug - Your analysis appears to be for all NBA teams. I wonder how the data would differ for playoff teams and ones that advanced in particular. I recall reading an article about one of the teams advancing because of their ability to expose that deficiency in the other.

Craig Carson 3 years, 11 months ago

the 4 teams that played in the conference finals (Cavs, GS, Houston, Boston) none of them had centers who could shoot 3's

Brian Conrad 3 years, 11 months ago

Defense ! And try the pok a Dok with Dawson & other bigs helping inside Will be fun to watch power again ! Slama Jama Self has ton of options ! BIGS. Real center with Real power forwards great guards ... high hopes for Charlie , Garrett , Dotson and Grimes

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 11 months ago

7.8% body fat...almost unheard of in such a large man. I've seen the tall and extremely thin body types but Udoka is a big man. Hudy will improve his core strength and will need it to retain his starting role.

Also a "31-inch standing vertical leap" for Udoka. Look for a lot of plays low in the paint next year.

Barry Weiss 3 years, 11 months ago

just work on your free throws all summer!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.