Kansas basketball assistant coach Norm Roberts, who works with the Jayhawks’ frontcourt players at practice every day, says he has seen recent improvement in senior forward Landen Lucas.
“What he is doing is letting the game come to him,” Roberts said Tuesday night while subbing for Bill Self on the KU coach’s weekly “Hawk Talk” radio show. “Landen is being explosive. He’s rebounding the ball with two hands and doing what he is capable of doing, and doing what he is really good at,” Roberts added.
The 6-foot-10, 250-pound Lucas — who averages 5.7 points and 4.7 rebounds for the Jayhawks, 9-1 — scored a season-high 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds in Saturday’s 89-72 victory over Nebraska at Allen Fieldhouse.
“He’s one of the best defenders in the country in the low post. When he gets an angle and just explodes right to the hoop he does a great job,” Roberts said.
KU’s big-man coach also said he’s been impressed with the progress of freshman center Udoka Azubuike, who averages 5.0 points and 4.8 boards. Azubuike has started the last five games after coming off the bench in the first five.
“My wife thinks he’s a big teddy bear. We don’t like teddy bears. We want him to be a grizzly bear,” Roberts said of the 7-foot, 280-pound native of Delta, Nigeria.
“It is new for him. He’s young (17). The pace of the game is quick for him. He’s getting better and better every day,” Roberts added.
Self, who was out recruiting Tuesday night, recently said Azubuike was closer to 260 pounds than his listed 280.
“He did do a great job with his body. When he got here (in June) he was 301 pounds. Hudy (Andrea, strength coach) did a great job with him,” Roberts said. “He has lost so much weight I was like, ‘We’re getting ready to call you Little Doke instead of Big Doke.’ He lost so much weight it has made him more agile and quicker and those things. He’s only going to continue to improve.”
Forward Mitch Lightfoot, a 6-8, 210-pound freshman from Gilbert, Ariz., has played 39 minutes total. He figures to be called on more if sophomore forward Carlton Bragg remains suspended.
“He almost goes too fast,” Roberts said of Lightfoot, who has scored 10 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in his limited minutes. “We’re trying to get him to slow down on his free throws. He’s a pretty good shooter. He’s been struggling with his free throws (1 of 8 from the line; 4 of 8 from the field). A lot has to do with his balance, shooting it and moving forward. We’re like, ‘Mitch just relax.’ He made one the other night (after missing his first seven to start the season) and felt good about it. He’s going to be a good player. He’s a guy that does work very hard every day.”
Azubuike, meanwhile, has made 10 of 27 free throws for 37 percent. He’s converted 60.6 percent of his shots from the field (20 of 33). KU’s fourth big man, junior Dwight Coleby, has made 45.5 percent of his floor shots and is 33.3 percent from the line (2 of 6).
“They are big,” Roberts said of Azubuike’s hands. “In his free throws he spins the ball then goes really quick to shoot it. (He needs to) spin the ball, relax, then shoot it. His touch is getting better. He works at it every day.”
Young an explosive scorer
Kansas recruiting target Trae Young is off to a torrid start his senior season at Norman (Okla.) North High School.
Young, a 6-2 point guard who is ranked No. 14 in the recruiting Class of 2017 by Rivals.com, scored 52 points in North’s 110-96 win over Springfield Glendale High on Saturday at the Ozark Mountain Shootout in Springfield ,Mo.
Young — who has been compared to Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry because of his ability to hit shots well beyond the three-point arc — cashed 17 of 29 shots, including 9 of 15 from three. He also had six rebounds and five steals. Young scored 44 points in a recent win over Stillwater (Okla.) High.
As far as his recruiting … “I’ve definitely heard it a lot that it’s down to Oklahoma and Kentucky, but I don’t think a lot of people understand how long Kansas has been recruiting me consistently. And I’m not counting Oklahoma State out, either,” Young told newsok.com when asked about the schools on his list.
“It’s up in the air right now. I want to see how these teams play this year, and who’s leaving, see who’s coming back next year. That’s a big reason why I’ll take a little longer. Things can change from October to March. I could’ve signed in the early period and then been like, ‘Man, if I had waited, I would’ve done something different.’ My dad (former Texas Tech standout guard Rayford Young) has been such a great resource in all of this because of his knowledge.”
KU assistant Roberts witnessed the 52-point game.
“I never know how many points he has,” Norman North head coach Bryan Merritt told ozarksportzone.com. “I would have guessed tonight (after the 52-point outing) that it was 40. I knew he had a lot but I never really know because he scores in such quick spurts and hits so many threes that you don’t really know.
“I’ve seen him score a lot of points and I give him and all of our players a lot of freedom because that’s what he needs to be able to do his thing. If he shoots five shots from the halfcourt line and two or three of them go in, that’s as good as him shooting it from 19-feet-9, so I’m cool with it.”
Duval has list of five
Trevon Duval, a 6-foot-2 senior point guard from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., who is ranked No. 3 nationally by Rivals.com, scored 19 points and dished out nine assists in IMG’s 86-69 win over Columbia (S.C.) Gray Collegiate on Saturday at the National High School Hoops Festival in Hyattsville, Md.
Duval — who has a recruiting list of KU, Duke, Arizona, Baylor and Seton Hall — told Zagsblog.com that Duke was the most recent of the five to offer him a scholarship.
“They (Blue Devils) need a point guard. So that’s what they are really pitching to me is that I can come in and run their show and be a point guard,” Duval told Rivals.com.
Hamidou Diallo scores 29 points
Hamidou Diallo, a 6-4 senior shooting guard from Putnam (Conn.) Science Academy, ranked No. 10 nationally by Rivals.com, scored 29 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a victory over Westtown on Saturday at the National High School Hoops Festival.
Several scouts from NBA teams attended the game. Diallo — who has a list of KU, Kentucky, Arizona, UConn, Indiana and Syracuse — says he will definitely attend college for a year. Many recruiting analysts are skeptical, however, since he is eligible for the 2017 NBA Draft.
‘Kansas is a great program. I haven’t gotten to visit there but coach Self seems real cool and coach Roberts up there is from Queens (N.Y.), which is where I’m from, and it seems like a great program,” Diallo told Rivals.com.
Of the recruiting process, Diallo said: “I have a final six and I don’t even know if I’m going to take all five visits. I’m just trying to see how it works out and seeing who is staying and who is going and things like that. I’m just trying to enjoy it.”