Sunday, September 30, 2018

Azubuike still making progress toward improved free throw shooting

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) shoots a free throw during the second half at Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) shoots a free throw during the second half at Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma.


The official Late Night box score featured just two free-throw attempts. And only one of them was actually shot.

But, boy, were those two free-throw tallies pretty notable.

The reason?

They came from Kansas center Udoka Azubuike, who misfired on his only free-throw attempt and was given credit for a make on the other in order to keep the flow of the 20-minute scrimmage going.

Despite the miss and the small sample size, KU coach Bill Self left the game encouraged by the unofficial 2018-19 free-throw debut of a player who shot just .413 from the free-throw line a season ago, while finishing as the team’s fourth leading scorer.


KU center Udoka Azubuike takes a step back to assess the situation during the men's basketball scrimmage at Late Night in the Phog on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

“I told the guys, I said, ‘Look how much better this is,’” Self recalled of his immediate thoughts after Azubuike’s free-throw attempt.

Although Azubuike improved slightly to shoot 47 percent from the free-throw line (21-of-45) over the final 19 games of the 2017-18 season after a high-profile, much-talked-about 1-of-8 showing at the line in a loss at Oklahoma, the 7-foot center’s issues at the free-throw line remained a popular storyline and never really went away.

After putting in hours of extra time — with coaches, teammates and on his own — to retool and improve his free-throw stroke during the heart of the 2017-18 season, Azubuike followed up that OU embarrassment by making 18 of 30 free throws (60 percent) in the next seven games. That included a 7-of-10 clip in a home win over West Virginia. And it’s that kind of production the Jayhawks are hoping for this season.

“I think 60s would be a very realistic goal,” Self said. “Seventy (percent) would be an off-the-chart goal. But I told somebody earlier, I think 65 is realistic. If he could do that, that would help our team a lot.”

While the Late Night showing added strength to Self’s belief that his big man’s free-throw stroke had improved, the veteran coach also said Friday that there were still a couple of hurdles to clear before he, and others, considered Azubuike a consistently reliable free-throw shooter.

“He’s going to have to see some go in in game situations,” Self said. “Because he can go out there in practice and you can stand next to him and he can make eight or 10 in a row. But (at practice), nobody’s in the stands. So he’s got to see it go in under game situations. But he’s going to shoot a lot better this year than he did last year.”


Bryce Landon 3 years, 10 months ago

One thing that has been pointed out so often, especially by broadcasters who are calling KU games for TV, is the awkward way Udoka holds the ball when he goes to shoot a free throw. That certainly isn't doing him any favors. Hopefully the coaches have retrained him on how to hold the ball when shooting free throws; that alone would boost his shooting percentage.

John Strayer 3 years, 10 months ago

I heard coach talking about how much improved his free throw shot was....but I still saw his elbow not being directly under the ball...but out to the side quite a bit. The shot did look "softer"...but I have to think its still going to be hard for him to control the ball with his elbow out and thus his arm pushing the ball sideways.

Craig Carson 3 years, 10 months ago

Luckily this season KU has the front court depth to sit him and not suffer on rim protection and inside scoring if the other teams wants to play "Hack-Dok" in close games..

Barry Weiss 3 years, 10 months ago

Just that picture above of his elbow way out makes me nervous. Hopefully that pic is from last year.

Shannon Gustafson 3 years, 10 months ago

The photo caption says:

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) shoots a free throw during the second half at Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma

Steve Zimmerman 3 years, 10 months ago

Being able to shoot FT is one thing he must improve in order to get drafted. He also has to show his ability to seal, rebound - with his body, NBA execs expect him to be dominant force under the rim, rebounding at least. Something is wrong if he's still a single-digit rebounder at the end of the season. His block#s must show up. How is he going to improve? It depends on Dok's will, AND the coaching staff & trainers. Dok & staff should look at how the Knicks utilize Robinson off of high-school. Dok can be just as good as Robinson. The staff can help him to get there.

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