Kansas junior center Udoka Azubuike will miss the rest of the season with a torn ligament in his right hand, coach Bill Self announced Sunday night.
Azubuike sat out Saturday’s 77-60 loss to Iowa State as a precautionary measure after he suffered the injury in Friday’s practice.
“Udoka had an MRI done this morning and the MRI revealed he tore the same ligament in his right hand that he tore in his left hand his freshman season,” Self said. “This occurred in practice on Friday and although the initial X-rays did not reveal the extent of the injury, the MRI did and it will require season-ending surgery.”
Self said the surgery date would be set early this week. Doctors, Self said, expect a complete recovery, with Azubuike likely to resume full basketball activities this summer.
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It’s a huge blow for KU in its quest for a 15th straight Big 12 title. Azubuike, a 7-footer from Delta, Nigeria, averaged 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds a game. He missed the last 25 games his freshman season when he tore the ligaments in his left wrist.
As far as how this affects the 2018-19 Jayhawks, Self is still awaiting word from the NCAA on the eligibility of Silvio De Sousa. A 6-foot-9 sophomore forward from Angola, De Sousa could conceivably grab many of the available big-man minutes if he is declared eligible by the NCAA at some point.
De Sousa and his recruitment were discussed this fall in a federal trial relating to corruption in college basketball. During the trial, Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola testified that he gave De Sousa’s guardian, Fenny Falmagne, $2,500 so De Sousa could take online classes. Gassnola also said he originally offered $20,000 to Falmagne to help repay $60,000 given to him from a Maryland booster; Gassnola said he never paid it, though, because he was cautious of the FBI’s investigation into the sport.
This also could require Self to speed up the development of David McCormack, a 6-foot-10 freshman from Oak Hill (Va.) Academy who averages 2.6 points and 2.5 rebounds in 7.2 minutes. The McDonald’s All-American has made recent progress, with Self speaking recently about him emerging as one of KU’s best big men in practice.
McCormack has played double-digit minutes in four of the last five games.
Also available is Mitch Lightfoot, who has averaged 8.7 minutes in 14 games.
Self also could elect to play small, which he did for long stretches during Azubuike’s four-game absence earlier this year with an ankle injury. In that scenario, guard Marcus Garrett was inserted into the starting lineup, playing alongside Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes, Lagerald Vick and Dedric Lawson.
Garrett has averaged 26.9 minutes in 13 games. He has made six starts his sophomore season.
KU, which is 12-2 overall and 1-1 in the Big 12, will play host to TCU on Wednesday.