Sunday, January 6, 2019

KU center Udoka Azubuike out for the season

Sunday MRI reveals torn ligaments in right hand

Injured center Udoka Azubuike  watches from the bench during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018 at Sprint Center.

Injured center Udoka Azubuike watches from the bench during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018 at Sprint Center.


Held out of Saturday’s loss at Iowa State for what were called “precautionary” reasons, the situation surrounding his injured right wrist turned disastrous for Kansas junior Udoka Azubuike on Sunday.

According to a news release from the KU basketball program sent out Sunday night, an MRI of Azubuike’s right hand and wrist revealed that the junior from Nigeria tore ligaments and would need season-ending surgery.

In a statement, KU coach Bill Self said the surgery date would be set in the next couple of days and that doctors told him they expected “a complete recovery,” with Azubuike “able to assume full basketball activities at some point this summer.”

“Udoka had an MRI done (Sunday) morning and the MRI revealed he tore the same ligament in his right hand that he tore in his left hand his freshman season,” Self said in the release. “This occurred in practice on Friday (Jan. 4) and although the initial X-rays did not reveal the extent of the injury, the MRI did and it will require season-ending surgery.”

Thus ends what many expected to be a monster season for Azubuike, who started nine of KU’s 14 games this season but also missed five games because of two separate injuries.

Since arriving at KU from Potter’s House Academy in Jacksonville, Fla., as a four-star, Top 40 prospect, Azubuike has suffered some kind of significant injury during each of his three seasons as a Jayhawk.

As a freshman, the 7-footer missed the final 25 games of the 2016-17 season — after starting six of the 11 he played in to open the season — because of a torn ligament in his left hand during a fluke accident in a December practice.

Self said Sunday that the ligament Azubuike tore this week was the same he tore two years ago in the opposite hand.

Last season, as a sophomore, Azubuike dealt with mid-season back issues — but did not miss any time because of it — and also missed all three games of the Big 12 tournament and parts of KU’s first two NCAA Tournament games after suffering a sprained MCL during a practice leading up to the conference tournament.

And earlier this season, after Azubuike flirted with turning pro during the offseason, the 7-foot cornerstone of KU’s offense missed four games and most of a fifth after suffering a severe ankle sprain in KU’s win over Wofford.

Azubuike played in nine games this season, averaging 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. He was named as a candidate for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award prior to the start of the season and was also on the preseason All-Big 12 Honorable Mention list.

His absence figures to force Self and the Jayhawks to explore more small-ball lineups the rest of the way, something he has hinted at doing more of anyway given the success he has had with four-guard looks during the past couple of seasons.

The difference between those teams and this team, however, is that Self's recent small-look lineups have been full of dead-eye shooters, while 3-point shooting has been a bit of a weakness with the 2018-19 team thus far.

Adding to the uncertainty of what's ahead for fifth-ranked Kansas (12-2 overall, 1-1 Big 12) is the fact that sophomore forward Silvio De Sousa, who filled in admirably when Azubuike missed time a season ago, remains out of action while KU waits on some kind of ruling from the NCAA regarding De Sousa's eligibility.

De Sousa's name and that of his guardian, Fenny Falmagne, was tied to the recent college basketball corruption trial and KU has elected to keep De Sousa on the bench while the school and the NCAA work to find a clearer picture of his alleged involvement.

Beyond De Sousa, the Jayhawks have plenty of eligible options to fill their front court spots, but neither Dedric Lawson, David McCormack nor Mitch Lightfoot bring the same kind of ferocious and unguardable presence to the floor as Azubuike.

While that certainly hurts KU's ability to dominate opponents in the paint, some of the Jayhawks' best stretches of the 2018-19 season have come with Azubuike on the bench — which has allowed KU to play faster and more spread out — and Self has been in constant search of a way to maximize his team's ability to play with Azubuike and Lawson at the same time, something that has not come as smooth or easy as many expected heading into the season.

The 7-foot Nigeria native has averaged just over 20 minutes per game.

Sophomore Marcus Garrett, a 6-foot-5, 190-pound combo guard from Dallas, started all five games Azubuike missed and is the most likely answer in the starting lineup from here on out with Azubuike now done for the season.

The Jayhawks are off the next two days and will return to action on Wednesday, when TCU (12-1, 1-0) comes to town for an 8 p.m. tipoff at Allen Fieldhouse.


Dane Pratt 3 years, 11 months ago

JFC!!! Oh well, I don't think we could beat Duke in the tourney anyways.

Bville Hawk 3 years, 11 months ago

Gotta really feel bad for the big guy. As the song goes, it seems that if it weren't for bad luck he'd have no luck at all. Here's hoping this is the last major injury he suffers in his collegiate and professional career.

Dane Pratt 3 years, 11 months ago

His NBA stock just plummeted and our team free throw shooting percentage just went up.

Jeff Foster 3 years, 11 months ago

Being honest, and I do feel extremely sorry for him, but I never have envisioned him as an NBA pro. His stamina is awful for the pro game, and he's too one-dimensional on offense, he'd be stopped most every trip. Wish him well and a speedy recovery, and we'll see him back for a senior year, or playing in the G League/Europe.

Craig Carson 3 years, 11 months ago

with his size and athletic ability some NBA would have given him a cant teach 7ft size..seeing as how he has missed virtually 2 full seasons in 3 years, he'd be smart to leave after this season while he still has some value..but seeing as how KU has missed on all of their big men targets in this recruiting season, it might be a good thing for KU to have him back for his senior year

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 11 months ago

I stopped using the line "you can't teach 7ft " after Dwayne Schintzius (who did make it into the NBA) played at the University of Florida.

I'm not sure what's going on with next year's recruiting class. It sucks that we lost out again on the best player from Kansas, PF Jeremiah Robinson Earl but we have signed two guards not in the top 100. I guess Self is hoping that neither Dotson or Grimes will leave after the season. Robinson-Earl is taking his game to Villanova. Bad enough that they have won two out of the last three NCAA championships but now Villanova is taking our best recruits.

Hell... Even three-star Markese Jacobs decided to head elsewhere. Maybe we will find some transfers if we don't give out our scholarships to early.

Adam Bengtson 3 years, 11 months ago

May think I’m crazy, but will be a blessing in disguise. He clogged the lane, and now we can move forward with offense that is faster and not worried abou lt a guy shooting 30% from the FT line. I think if Grimes gets going and McCormick now gets more playing time to grow up they can still win Big 12 seeing how weak offensively the league is this year. This is why we have depth. If a miracle that DeSousa comes back would be a a gift in our lap. I just think this won’t be as bad losing him as some will think.

Craig Carson 3 years, 11 months ago

him clogging the lane was a good thing since teams had a harder time driving to the basket..Dedric is not a center and does not look comfortable playing exclusively in the post..had this team been as effective in shooting the 3 then that wouldnt matter..not to mention teams couldnt double team Dedric with Dok out and believe that teams will focus on taking away Dedric until KU can prove they can hit 3's

Shannon Gustafson 3 years, 11 months ago

9-0 with him, 3-2 without. Not a blessing in disguise. Furthermore, in terms of points and rebounds per 40, Dok and Lawson are nearly identical and Dok is way more efficient. There is a reason we score 80 when he plays and 65 when he doesn't and it's not because it's a blessing.

Can it be overcome? Sure...but Self's got a challenge on his hands now. Reinventing a team's identity halfway through the year is not easy, especially when you've got 2 league games each week and very little time to practice on things other than the game plan.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 11 months ago

How does losing Dok get Grimes more playing time? I'm not sure I want him getting more playing time.

Thomas Green 3 years, 11 months ago

No! Terrible news for Doke! I’m sure he is heartbroken! He obviously can come back from this, but terrible news for him neverless!

Bill was going to need to do a heck of a job to get this team squared away before this. Now it will take the coaching job of his life.

I hope someone on this team can find a way to be the leader that is currently lacking. Still a lot of basketball to play. Rock Chalk!

Mallory Briggans 3 years, 11 months ago

Adam you assume Self will play McCormack ……...If hes smart he will start developing him and rethink that small ball line-up especially if the guards continue to struggle from the outside.Mccormack said the game will slow down once he gets playing time. Hopefully we wont need the FREE D-MAC t-shirts and Self will use him

Craig Carson 3 years, 11 months ago

lets not go overboard with the shirts..Self ids the HOFer, not us,,but i would prefer Self play more DM than Garrett... i love Garrett but until he can shoot a little better he will be a liability on offense.teams would rather double Lawson and give MG the shot than leave Lawson 1 on 1...same with the kid and he can play some D, but he is a non threat to score..DM has much more offensive ability..hopefully Self doesnt bury hi on the depth chart..

Bryce Landon 3 years, 11 months ago


Dirk Medema 3 years, 11 months ago

And what was once an embarrassment of riches (front court depth) is now gone. Lots of opportunity for Mitch and David, even though we'll likely play lots of 4G O.

Maybe it will be a blessing in disguise in making the rest of the team that much more keenly aware of their need to develop and execute.

Michael Leiker 3 years, 11 months ago

Time for the fans to pick them up at home.

Michael Sillman 3 years, 11 months ago

Pretty fascinating that it’s the same ligament in the other hand. Genetic predisposition? Well good luck to him. Hope he does one more year to prove his full recovery to the NBA scouts.

Sure wish that McCormack would have received more minutes in non-conference. I don’t see the four guard lineup working against a lot of teams with our shooting woes and Lawson’s lack of inside intimidation. He’d be in foul trouble every game. McCormack seems like the only one that can provide that inside presence that will be critical in league play and the tournament.

Barry Weiss 3 years, 11 months ago

I wondered if maybe this happens to him when he hangs on the rim. Now that it has happened in both wrists.

Ralph Huge 3 years, 11 months ago

Have we ever been told what happened in practice that caused both wrist injuries? I just expect Dok was smashing dunks thru the rim as hard as he can, as he usually does, which would be tragic & stupid if he was doing that in practice and knocked himself out of the season, especially if this is the 2nd time doing so.

Shannon Gustafson 3 years, 11 months ago

Last year they said his hand got stuck in someone's jersey. Nothing to do with dunking.

David Robinett 3 years, 11 months ago

Tough, but we’ll be fine. If we did it with only Landen Lucas as our big, we can do it with Lawson. Grimes is ready to step up ( and Big Dave will have to).

Craig Carson 3 years, 11 months ago

that may be true, but that team had better guard play and could shoot lights out form 3..this team so far hasnt shown that..they have potential, but this far havent did a whole lot..

Steve Zimmerman 3 years, 11 months ago

With or without him, it won't make any difference. I wish Dok speedy recovery no matter what. Return healthy, with better stamina (can't the coaching staff train him?), lighter feet, slimmer body. He can still play overseas. No hope is lost.

Stuart Corder 3 years, 11 months ago

I’m so disappointed for Big ‘Doke. He’s ridden the struggle bus every season. Let’s get that wrist repaired and get him back on the horse for his senior season!

...on the other hand, we do have a freshman McDonald’s All American who is more than ready for more playing time, and is actually a better fit for a fast paced offense than ‘Doke will ever be. It’s time to take off the handicap and let our players run.

Dedric Lawson has a smooth game, but Arizona St and Iowa St both revealed that his talent is wasted if he doesn’t play aggressively. The Achilles heel of this team is it’s lack of aggression and sense of entitlement. Dotson has it. Grimes finally showed it against Arizona St. Vick reverted back to his play last year when he played with some misplaced sense of entitlement on the court, which is not a characteristic of a senior leader and is contrary to how he began his senior campaign.

‘Doke’s injury is unfortunate, but not what bothers me. What bothers me is KU & Bill Self’s silence on how the NCAA is handling the Silvio De Sousa situation. I fear there is real concern of impending repercussions should they speak out. We all agree, even among KU haters, that the NCAA is the villain here - not an athletic wear sponsor. Zion Williamson’s handlers literally had an asking price, yet he’s playing for Duke and being marketed by every sports media company. Hypocrisy?

Bottom line is that in theory, David MacCormack fits into KU’s system better than ‘Doke and our Jayhawks are faster, more athletic and are less one dimensional with ‘Doke off the floor.

Craig Carson 3 years, 11 months ago

how do you figure they feel entitled??? that is a stupid way to to look at things...they have played like they have because the starting guards are freshmen who havent figured out the college game yet

Shannon Gustafson 3 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, that's why we're 9-0 with Dok and 3-2 without him while also scoring over 10 ppg more with him in the lineup. We're not better without him. Can we overcome? I hope so and if anyone can figure out how it's Self.

Creg Bohrer 3 years, 11 months ago

This really sucks for him, but unless we got better guard play he wouldn't have made much of a difference for KU. We can't shoot from the outside and can't feed the post because of the shooting. That's if we get the ball in the half court without turning it over.

Bill John 3 years, 11 months ago

There is a pattern. What is Doke doing in practice to get season ending injuries???

Gary McCullough 3 years, 11 months ago

Don't forget that we also lost Joel Embiid at a crucial point in the season, too. What's with the injury bug attacking our team's big men?

Shannon Gustafson 3 years, 11 months ago

And Perry got hurt before the tournament his final year...

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 11 months ago

We can make a fairly long list of players being injured and missing out on the tournament.

Craig Carson 3 years, 11 months ago

Self has done more with much less..he has the talent to win the BIG12 and make another FF, but he will have his work cut out for him..Dotson, Vick, Grimes and Moore must become bigger offensive threats since the focus will now be on stopping Lawson, especially from the 3....hopefully Self will use this as an opportunity to develop David much as i love Lightfoot and Garrett, neither adds a lot of offensive firepower...IMO, losing Dok probably puts them as a #2 seed instead of a 1...noone is gonna replace someone as unguardable as him

Steve Zimmerman 3 years, 11 months ago

I'm not sure how we've gone from impressive resume to outside top50 in terms of both O and D efficiency. I mean, it'll take some miracles to even be in the Tournament.

Shannon Gustafson 3 years, 11 months ago

Someone has lost their mind. Miracle to make the tournament LOL!

Steve Zimmerman 3 years, 11 months ago

Wow.. I didn't expect Shannon giving up that easily.. :D

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 11 months ago

KU will make the tournament, keeping that streak intact but consecutive conference championships will be far more difficult. We can still make it to the Sweet 16 or the Elite 8 this season is our guards can start hitting threes.

How good could this team be with Dedric and Silvio?

Clarence Haynes 3 years, 11 months ago

Hope that this is incentive for the ‘Hawks!

Eric TheCapn 3 years, 11 months ago

"Some of the Jayhawks' best stretches of the 2018-19 season have come with Azubuike on the bench." For example, the 40-minute stretch against Iowa State.... (-_-)

Stuart Corder 3 years, 11 months ago

By “sense of entitlement” I refer to sloppy drives to the lane while expecting a foul call, telegraphing passes as they simply go through the motions lazily, not playing with a sense of urgency.

It’s like when an NBA “star” throws a fit when he fumbles the ball on an uncontrolled drive claiming to have been slapped, yet the replay shows he wasn’t touched. <—— I’m looking at you Kevin Durant and “King” James. Vick is the most consistent culprit on our Jayhawk team. Garret gets caught watching the ball on defense. He was destroyed against Iowa State because of that mentality.

I’m most impressed with Dotson. Once our youth overcomes the pressures of true road crowds with more experience, they will right the ship.

John Smith 3 years, 11 months ago

Is it possible to play too hard? Azubuike is like a bull in a China closet. He not only breaks things around him, but because he doesn’t know his own strength he breaks himself too. Really unfortunate for him, he’s going to have to make some adjustments to his way of playing or this will happen over and over again.

Gary McCullough 3 years, 11 months ago

I'm getting the feeling that our streak of Big XII championships may end this year. <>

Freddie Garza 3 years, 11 months ago

The good news is that he did not sustain an injury to his shooting hand, since he doesn't actually have one of those per se.

Armen Kurdian 3 years, 11 months ago

That's devastating for him, career-wise. Will an NBA team take a chance on a guy that keeps getting hurt. Dang it, can't we just have everyone healthy and eligible for once.

I'm almost at the point now with a screw it mentality to play Silvio. Enough of this BS of silence or do-nothing from the NCAA. KU has in good faith sat player after player with jack squat from the NCAA and I think it's enough.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 11 months ago

Hmm... An NBA team will definitely take that chance if the player ( Joel Embiid) is worth the risk. Right now, not sure Dok would get drafted but he would certainly get several opportunities to work out for several organizations.

I'm not sure staying around is going to help him.

Brad Watson 3 years, 11 months ago

Strange year...from the NCAA that very weird game in the desert...what a head scratcher that was,,,to the raw talent and no chemistry that was No.! was weeks Dokes' issues...and last weekends blowout...STRANGE ...STRANGE....STRANGE...I can not get a read on this team...

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