Kansas sophomore Udoka Azubuike accepted a pass in the paint, pivoted and softly converted a right-handed, 5-foot bank shot during a short full-court scrimmage Tuesday in the basketball practice facility adjacent to Allen Fieldhouse.
“I realize what we missed last year, just seeing him for 30 minutes today,” KU coach Bill Self said of the 7-foot, 280-pounder from Delta, Nigeria, who had surgery Jan. 4 to repair torn ligaments in his left wrist.
Azubuike, who participated in 30 minutes of drills for Self’s basketball campers as well as an ensuing 30-minute team practice, was huffing and puffing during his first full contact workout in six months.
“He’s out of shape (but) he looks pretty good,” Self said. “He certainly makes a big difference from a physical standpoint. I never thought about ’Doke being a great shooter outside of 2 feet, but yes, we missed his offensive presence. He would have been by far our best low-post scorer (last season).”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
Azbuike wore a lightweight protective glove on his left wrist.
“It may get sore. He may get it hit. He is going to be able to practice full speed from this point forward,” Self said.
Freshman power forward Billy Preston and transfer forwards Dedric Lawson and Jack Whitman appeared especially active in drills, to the delight of several hundred campers.
“He looks as good as anybody we’ve had here at the 4-spot probably physically,” Self said of Preston, 6-10 and 240 pounds out of Los Angeles. “He’s 6-10, has pretty good ball skills. He’s a pretty good athlete. He has a lot to learn. I’m glad we’ve got him.”
Of 6-9, 230-pound Memphis transfer Lawson, Self said: “He’s in bad shape obviously, but he can score. He has soft hands. He’s a good shooter. When he gets in shape he’ll be an effective scorer and rebounder for us.”
Lawson will practice a season then play in games in 2018-19 in accordance with NCAA transfer rules. Whitman, 6-9, 235 out of William & Mary, will play in games this season as a graduate transfer.
“I think he’s bouncy,” Self said of Whitman. “I think he’s pretty smart. He certainly doesn’t have to score a lot of points for us. He can be a guy who can understand what we need to do offensively.
“He’ll score off other people’s plays. He’ll be a good ball mover, which will be good. Dwight (Coleby, transfer) did some things well. Some he did better (than Whitman). I also think there are some things that Jack does better. I do think he (Whitman) can play with Udoka (at same time).”
Good hustle for summer practice
At one point at Tuesday’s scrimmage in the practice gym, Whitman and Lagerald Vick went flying into the padding on the wall chasing a basketball. The contact resembled a hard check into the boards in hockey.
“I don’t want anybody to get hurt,” Self said. “They play out of bounds during pickup games. During practices we rarely play out of bounds.”
Self on one-and-done
NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently said he’d like a change in the one-and-done rule. Silver said he’d like to raise the minimum age from 19 to 20, while the NBA players want to lower it from 19 to 18. He said both NBA teams and college coaches appear to be against the current rules that send the best high schoolers to college for one year.
“I thought what he said is positive,” Self said. “When you first hear it (Silver’s position), kids can go out of high school (to pros) which I think would be great.
“If they go to college maybe they have to stay a certain period of time which I think would be great.” Self added, noting talks between the NBA office and players association are “obviously in the infant stages. “There’s a lot of things to figure out (such as how much NBA Development teams would pay players). I think in theory it sounds great.”
Self on Ohio State firing
Self is a friend of Ohio State coach Thad Matta, who was fired this week.
“That certainly was a shocker to me. He’s the third winningest coach in the first 17 seasons of a career all time — Roy (Williams), (Mark) Few and him. The last two years haven’t gone quite as well. He’s a good coach.”
This and that
▪ Freshman guard Marcus Garrett did not participate in drills Tuesday. He graduated Monday from Dallas Skyline High and was to arrive on campus late Tuesday night.
▪ Freshman walk-on Chris Teahan watched the action intently from the sidelines. He will miss a week or so of drills following a bout with mono.
▪ Sophomore Tucker Vang did not attend. Not listed on the current roster, he may not be back with the squad this season.
“Tucker and I have talked. He was good for us last year. I don’t know what roles those guys (walk-ons) are going to have right now. We’re going to wait and see how it plays out,” Self said.
▪ There’s a chance another walk-on could be added at some point.
“We could use some size if we could get it as much as anything. If we could have one more big guy that would probably be helpful,” Self said, noting the Jayhawks have five bigs and could use six.