Udoka Azubuike in early stages of getting back to his dominating ways
Cleared to play basketball again just a few weeks back, University of Kansas center Udoka Azubuike isn’t quite back to his rim wrecking ways.
That’s not to say one of the leading candidates for Big 12 Player of the Year next season has much to worry about regarding his future on the court. It was just obvious Tuesday afternoon inside Allen Fieldhouse that Azubuike can’t yet dominate inside the way he’s used to doing.
The 7-footer from Nigeria still dunked with ease during a low-key scrimmage designed to entertain the kids attending Bill Self’s basketball camp. Azubuike simply wasn’t wholly vicious in doing so like you know a 100% recovered “Dok” would be.
That’s no criticism of the Jayhawks’ 280-ish pound pivot, either. The big man hasn’t played in a real basketball game — this scrimmage existed on the opposite end of the competitive and intense spectrum — in more than six months, after suffering a wrist injury that ended his junior season.
The four dunks Azubuike completed with ease, while tamer than the ones that comprise the center’s career highlight reel, because no one had to fear whether the stanchion could handle the aftershock, were a sign he’s easing his way back into form, and back into commanding the paint.
Azubuike didn’t spend the first-to-80 scrimmage outrunning any of KU’s other bigs, either, but that’s never been his game. He at least was able to get up and down the floor without looking overwhelmingly plodding for most of the affair, while fellow bigs David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot (Silvio De Sousa was absent on this particular afternoon) obviously benefited from being in far better condition — see: Azubuike’s aforementioned long non-basketball rehab and recovery process.
While the two free throws Azubuike knocked down late in the scrimmage had to be a nice little confidence booster for the career 39.4% foul shooter, the good news for KU’s frontcourt is that Azubuike still has another four-plus months to get back to tyrannizing opponents who have the misfortune of trying to defend him in the low post.
And by then Azubuike surely will feel more comfortable relying on his strength inside than he does at this juncture. At the height of his powers, the center would have scored far more than the 23 points he put up in his Blue team’s narrow loss at Self’s camp. And he would not have been so quick to settle for and take lower-percentage jumpers when he’s better off prevailing through and over interior defenders above and around the rim.
Azubuike no doubt benefited psychologically from taking jump shots that he clearly has spent some time on in hopes of adding to his repertoire. And the massive Jayhawk even had a little fun in front of the campers, trying to show off his handles with some length of the floor low dribbling displays. The youth were so inspired that by the time the game was on the line they serenaded the big with chants of “Dok for 3,” a request that not even Azubuike wanted to grant.
But we know where his shots will come from when the games mean something again. Azubuike’s dunks and jump hooks will be a staple of KU’s offense in 2019-20. By the time the season gets here, he’ll be back to his authoritative, intimidating attacks in the post.