Udoka Azubuike had never been chewed out for this.
During Kansas’ 90-56 exhibition victory over Stella Azzurra/HSC Roma on Wednesday afternoon at Honey Sport City, the 7-foot KU center drew the ire of coach Bill Self for, well, dunking too forcefully.
“Two-hundred eighty-five pounds hanging on the rim almost pulled it down twice,” KU coach Bill Self said with a smile.
It actually was true, though. With 4:38 left in the second quarter, Azubuike’s two-handed slam shook the backboard and rim a couple feet. Forty seconds later, after getting an alley-oop feed from teammate Devonté Graham, Azubuike pulled down with such force that the base came off the ground for a split second. Officials subsequently delayed the game for a few minutes to make sure the basket was safe.
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“I just wanted to go up and dunk it,” Azubuike said. “I didn’t know it was going to break.”
That led to Azubuike getting a halftime talk from Self, who admitted he “jumped his butt” on the topic.
“We almost didn’t have a game because of him,” Self said. “It wasn’t that he dunked it so hard. That’s what I said, ‘It was because you hung on the rim.’”
The message got through. On Azubuike’s first field goal of the second half, he laid the ball in without touching the iron.
“At first, (Coach) was really upset, because the rim was almost broken, so we can’t play no more,” Azubuike said. “He was like, ‘You’ve just got to chill out a little bit.’ So I just ran out there and tried to play my game — just chill out on the rim.”
That wasn’t easy for Azubuike, who admitted he’d once previously brought down a rim with a high-school dunk.
“It’s not that I just started doing this yesterday. That’s my game,” Azubuike said of slams. “Once I’m out there, I just try to dunk.”
With the goals remaining upright, KU had a relatively easy time with the Italian 18- and 19-year-old all-star team. Devonté Graham took MVP honors with 14 points with nine assists, while Malik Newman led the Jayhawks with 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting.
“When they make shots, they’re pretty good together,” Self said of the two guards. “You know it’s different thank Frank (Mason). Frank was such a downhill, north and south guy. Those guys are a little bit more perimeter shooters than what Frank is as far as getting them off quick. I thought they both looked good.”
Azubuike finished with 13 points in 13 minutes in a performance Self called “fine.”
“It’d be nice if he could (dunk) every basket, but you’ve got to be able to score with a guy between you and the rim,” Self said. “He’s got to develop some other things. Today he had dunks, so you might as well take them.”
KU played its first of four exhibition games in Italy six hours after a walking trip through the Colosseum and Pantheon in Rome. The Jayhawks will sightsee Vatican City on Thursday morning before playing their second game at 11:30 a.m. Central against Players Group, a pro all-star team based out of Rome.
The matchup will be at Honey Sport City again, meaning Azubuike — for one more day — will have to pay attention to his slamming style.
“It was just a regular dunk for me,” Azubuikie said. “I was just out there playing, trying to be aggressive.”