Skeptics have said they’ll need to see a birth certificate before accepting the notion that 7-foot, 280-pound Kansas freshman Udoka Azubuike is really, truly only 17-years-old.
He won’t be asking his parents, who live in Lagos, Nigeria, to send him such a document.
“I mean, for me, I don’t have anything to prove to anyone because I know,” Azubuike said Thursday at KU men’s basketball media day in Allen Fieldhouse. Azubuike’s date of birth is listed as Sept. 17, 1999.
“My mom and everybody … I told them about that stuff,” he added of folks questioning his age ever since he came to the United States when he was 13. “I have my family backing me up and stuff. I’m good.”
Azubuike — he attended Potter’s House Christian in Jacksonville, Fla., — admits it is annoying, however, when people insist he must be older than what he is actually listed.
“At first, during my high school years, people kept saying that,” Azubuike said. “I get (ticked) off and stuff, but as time goes on, I know people are going to say what they are going to say. I just kind of overlook it. I don’t want people saying anything any more.”
Azubuike, who entered college as Rivals.com’s No. 31-ranked player in the recruiting Class of 2016, said he’s close to 100 percent recovered from the strained groin he suffered during boot camp.
“I’m practicing with the team running up and down the court. That’s good,” said Azubuike, who indicated he’s lost about 25 pounds since reporting to campus in June.
On a lighter note, Azubuike told reporters he has torn down basketball rims in games before, yet “I don’t go into games to break rims. It’s pretty much my game. I don’t see any dunk I don’t like. Once I see the rim, I don’t care who is over there. I’m going to try to dunk. I am going to try to go up and shatter the rim. That’s my game. It’s what I do.”
Jayhawks support Scooter Ward
Kansas senior guard Tyler Self, who visited associate athletic director Scott “Scooter” Ward at University of Kansas Hospital with several of his Jayhawk teammates last Saturday, returned to the hospital on Thursday morning.
“The recovery he’s made from the first time I saw him until (Thursday) has been unbelievable,” Self said.
“He’s got his ornery attitude back,” Self said. “He’s talking, giving people crap and joking around. It’s great to see how he’s doing once again. He’s not out of the woods yet. He has a ways to go. The progress he’s made has been great to see. He’s doing better with his memory. He’s doing a lot better than he was.”
As is the case with his dad, Bill Self, Tyler has known Ward for 14 years, the amount of time “Scooter” has spent as academic adviser for men’s basketball at KU.
“When we heard (Ward) was in the hospital (Friday for surgery to repair a tear in the aorta) I was worried about him. I got a little emotional,” Tyler Self said.
Senior guard Frank Mason was one of the Jayhawks who went into the intensive care unit on Saturday to see Ward. Ward has since been released from ICU into a regular room.
“When we got the news it was heartbreaking. I was very very sad,” Mason said. “To go to the hospital and see him like that … it was an even worse feeling. It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever been part of. He means so much to all of us.”
There is a new public group page on Facebook for those who wish to receive updates on Ward’s condition. It’s #RootForScoot.
“I think of Andrea (Hudy, strength coach), Bill Cowgill (trainer), and of course I think of Scooter as being an assistant coach,” Bill Self said. “When you talk about us academically … I think we’ve only had one or two seniors not graduate since Scoot has been working with our guys, and that’s since I’ve been here, and he’s a remarkable human being.
“He’s the best role model the guys can have. He’s as tough a human being as I’ve ever been around. He’s been through more than most all of us will ever go through (being paralyzed in 1986 after an accident), and to throw a torn aorta on top of everything else, it’s remarkable that he’s doing as well as he’s doing. It’s a miracle. But it’s also a sign of his toughness, too.
“We went to see him on Saturday as a group, and he can only see four guys, two at a time, and we sent the four oldest guys in there, and they were all very moved and saddened to see him in such a tough position. But I was over there last night, and the guy’s got a sense of humor, he’s talking, he’s moving, he’s sitting up. He watched the volleyball girls play last night. He was excited about that. Short-term memory seems pretty good. Long-term memory seems excellent. He’s totally amazing everybody over there. Prayers have been answered. He’s not out of the dark yet or out of the woods yet, but certainly he’s well on his way to recovery, which is great news for all of us.”
KU tapped first again
KU on Thursday was picked to finish first in the Big 12 race by the league head coaches, who could not vote for their own teams. The Jayhawks, who had nine first-place votes, were followed by West Virginia, Texas, Iowa State, Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech (tie), Kansas State and TCU.
At the time of KU media day on Tursday, only nine first-place votes were listed on the release on the Big 12’s website. It looked as if the league was not going to reveal which team KU coach Self selected as champ. It turned out to be just an oversight. Later, the release was amended to show Iowa State receiving one first-place vote.
“They didn’t show it? Perfect, so I don’t have to say. I gave four teams a quarter vote, so I don’t have to say,” Self said, laughing.
“You know, I don’t know that it’s a huge surprise that they picked the guys (Jayhawks) first, but what is said now and what actually happens are totally two different things, and one is important and one is not, and this certainly isn’t important. Our league will be good again. It always is.”
Starting five not a mystery
Self was asked if he knew his starting lineup at this early date.
“Frank has got a good chance to start and Devonte’ (Graham) is probably a little bit ahead, but you would think Landen (Lucas) and Carlton (Bragg) and Josh (Jackson), to go along with them. But it’s still early, and Lagerald Vick is putting pressure on everybody because he’s played so well,” Self said.
Team has improved in week’s time
The Jayhawks have improved since the second day of practice (last Thursday) when Self said the squad had “stunk.”
We’ve gotten better,” he said. “Nobody looks good two practices in, but I think we’re pretty athletic when we’ve got our most athletic team out there.”