Kansas 7-foot freshman center Udoka Azubuike, who has shed 41 pounds the past five months, likely avoided stepping on a scale after the Jayhawks’ Thanksgiving Day feast on Thursday afternoon in McCarthy Hall.
“Turkey and green beans … they were good,” Azubuike said of his favorite dishes after scoring a career-high 17 points with three rebounds and three blocks in the Jayhawks’ 95-57 rout of UNC Asheville on Friday night in Allen Fieldhouse.
“We ate as a team together, united, (and) ate turkey. It was fun. Coming off Thanksgiving break we feel good. I feel good,” said Azubuike, who according to KU coach Bill Self checked in at a robust 262 pounds the day before the food fest.
“I think he looks absolutely great,” said Self, who, along with 16,300 fans, liked the sight of Azubuike stuffing the ball seven times, his only other bucket a lay-in at the goal. He missed just one shot.
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“I do think he gives us the best chance to score inside with his back to the basket. They (Jayhawks) like playing with him. They can throw the ball places where there’s nobody else on our team that can go catch it. He makes it a lot easier,” Self said.
KU junior Devonté Graham (career-high 11 assists) and freshman Josh Jackson (career-best seven assists) each tossed lobs that were flushed by Azubuike.
“A lot of guys on the backline were real small. He was pointing up. One time I just threw it up there just because I knew the other guy couldn’t go up and get it,” Graham said. “It was a great game for Udoka. He remembered the plays, played hard. He just needs to keep moving forward.”
Jackson, who chipped in 14 points off 5-of-11 shooting (0-for-3 from three), said he enjoys feeding Azubuike passes for easy hoops inside.
“It’s pretty fun. You can throw the ball up there anywhere and he’s probably going to go up and get it. It’s pretty easy,” said Jackson. “He’s pretty young, but he’s making a lot of progress. You can see that. We can expect a lot out of him.”
Azubuike, who is from Delta, Nigeria, said he enjoys playing in the same lineup with fellow McDonald’s All-American Jackson.
“Josh is an extremely talented player,” Azubuike said. “In practice we go at it all the time. Josh is tough. He’s talking and stuff. Today was awesome. He came up to me, talked to me, said, ‘You got this.’ I feel great about that.”
Self said Azubuike and sophomore guard Lagerald Vick (career-high 15 points and career-best nine rebounds) who Friday made their first career starts, will start again Tuesday against Long Beach State (7 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse).
“It was nice to see Udoka have some success,” Self said of Azubuike, who in Tuesday’s win over Georgia played just five minutes. He did not score and had one board. “He is a physical presence that we don’t have. He can get so much better. I think he will.”
Azubuike said he will continue working.
“There’s always room for improvement,” he said. “I am just a freshman. I’m trying to get better every day, every time. I don’t feel like I did anything tonight. I want to improve. I want to get better. I want to get in shape.”
It would be difficult to get in tip-top shape if the Jayhawks ate every day as they did on Thanksgiving.
“My favorite Thanksgiving food? Probably the cornbread that was cooked. I think Mrs. Self cooked it,” Josh Jackson said.
And for the record … coach Bill Self’s favorite part of turkey day eating?
“Sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top,” he said on his Hawk Talk radio show the day before Turkey Day. “It’s so healthy. You are not supposed to be healthy on holidays I don’t think, though.”
On a serious note … “It was good,” he said of the holiday. “Just like everybody’s, they are always too short. We had a chance to practice then had a nice meal as a team. I know the guys got their bellies full.”
And filled the stat sheet the ensuing night against UNC Asheville.
“This is the probably the best we looked with the exception of the start of the UAB game (83-63 win) and start of the second half of the Duke game (77-75 win). We did some good things,” Self said.
KU offers Quickley
Immanuel Quickley, a 6-4 junior point guard from John Carroll High in Bel Air, Md., on Friday received a scholarship offer from KU, Zagsblog.com reports. Quickley, who is ranked No. 12 in the recruiting Class of 2018 by Rivals.com, has a list of KU, Duke, Kentucky, Maryland, Miami, Providence, Virginia and Washington.