Udoka Azubuike is listening to one person, and one only, as he attempts to improve his performance from the free-throw line.
That instructor is Kansas coach Bill Self.
“I’ll take the blame if it doesn’t go well and he deserves all the credit if it does,” Self said Wednesday night on his weekly Hawk Talk radio show.
Self was the one coach to work with 7-foot sophomore center Azubuike on his free-throw form after a Jan. 23 loss at Oklahoma in which Azubuike missed six free throws without a make during a Lon Kruger induced “Poke-A-Doke” strategy in the final minutes.
“One thing in shooting, you can’t hear more than one voice,” Self added. “Everybody’s got their own idea on how he should do it. He needs to not listen to anybody (besides Self). I don’t think he is. He’s been pretty committed to doing the same things we’ve been working on.”
Azubuike, who finished 1 of 8 at Oklahoma, did not attempt a free throw in last Saturday’s 79-68 home victory over Texas A&M. He was 2 for 5 using a new technique in Monday’s 70-56 victory at Kansas State.
“The thing is,” Self said, “we’ve all been taught how to shoot a certain way. There are certain things maybe some people think are more important than others. I understand and respect that, no question, but the bottom line is everybody has their own idea because everybody has had success or failures doing it the way that they do it. They way they do it doesn’t necessarily fit everybody that they are trying to teach to do it.”
So Azubuike is listening solely to Self, who has had the big man shoot a lot of free throws in the practice gym.
“You have to make adjustments based on who the individuals are,” Self said. “It’s easy for somebody to come in and say he’s got to get his elbow under the ball. That’s right. You do, but you don’t change something that’s been practiced a certain way for 12 years in a weekend. I think his routine is better and more consistent. He’s going to be fine.”
Self noted that Azubuike, who had six points, three rebounds and three turnovers in 18 minutes at Kansas State, “is trying and he’s doing better. It’s going to take months to where it’s a habit but he’s doing a lot better. He’s shooting a lot of them and practicing the right way. He’ll continue to see more success.
“I don’t think there’s an overnight formula where all of a sudden he’ll go from a 40 percent to 80 percent free-throw shooter. Hopefully he’ll be a little more consistent, and most important, get some more confidence.”
Azubuike had hit 5 of 19 free throws over two games before the 2 of 5 effort at K-State. For the year, he’s made 26 of 69 for 37.7 percent.
“It was great for his confidence,” KU sophomore forward Mitch Lightfoot said of Azubuike hitting two free throws at K-State. KU as a team hit 19 of 26 to the Wildcats’ 8 of 11.
“Confidence is everything when it comes to the free-throw line,” Lightfoot said. “I know the big fella can shoot them. I’ve seen him make them. I’ve been there rebounding for him. It’s great he worked so hard after a tough game at Oklahoma. After OU he worked on his free throws to make it (form) look prettier which it does now. Seeing him knock ’em down … it was just great.”
Svi on a roll
Self on senior Svi Mykhailiuk, who scored 22 points at Kansas State and 24 points in each of the two games before that — against Oklahoma and Texas A&M.
“He’s just so confident right now,” Self said of the 6-8 wing, who averages 17.0 points a game and has made 79 of 165 three-pointers for 47.9 percent.
“I’ve gotten on him for taking some terrible shots. He looks at me, acknowledges me, which is good, then forgets everything I ever said, which is even better,” Self added. “That’s the difference in a senior and a guy who has not been around long. He is so confident now. Svi is hard to guard right now because he’s shooting it and putting it down pretty well.”
More on zone defense working
Self went to a zone defense with about 5 minutes left in the first half of Monday’s victory. KU also used the 2-3 much of the second half.
“We had no answer for Dean Wade,” Self said of K-State’s 6-10 junior forward from St. John, Kan., who scored 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting (3 of 6 from three and 1 of 2 at the line). “He’s gotten so good. He’s on a roll (averaging 16.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game). His confidence is high. He’s played well against everybody.
“It seems like to me he’s kind of a Jayhawk killer when he plays us, so to speak. He’s a hard matchup for us. We don’t have that 6-8 power forward with the same type speed and quickness and skill level. We guard him with a guard and switch a lot. It creates mismatches. They were able to play off that. They scored six straight when we put a big on him. We said, ‘Let’s try zone.’ Fortunately it worked out, not because it was unbelievable at all. It did disrupt the game.”
200 players returning
KU this weekend will celebrate its 120 years of basketball by playing host to players, coaches and staff from every era of Jayhawks hoops. All players have been invited back to be recognized during the KU-Oklahoma State game, set for an 11 a.m. tipoff Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.
The weekend’s festivities also will celebrate the 30-year anniversary of KU’s 1988 national title team. And a banquet will be held Saturday night.
“I think we have just under 200 former players coming back, plus managers, secretaries, people who have given a lot to this place,” Self said Wednesday on Hawk Talk. “I know the ex-players will enjoy it. I’ll enjoy getting a chance to see some folks I haven’t seen in a while.”
Dotson sets record
KU signee Devon Dotson, a 6-1 senior point guard from Providence Day High School in Charlotte, N.C., is now the leading scorer in school history, coach Brian Field reported on Twitter.
Dotson has scored 2,455 career points. He passed 2006 graduate Jeremy Goode during last Friday’s game at Charlotte Latin.
Self recently attended an 81-65 victory over Charlotte Christian in which Dotson scored 34 points with eight rebounds and five assists.