University of Kansas

KU’s Udoka Azubuike clear for full participation in Jayhawks’ summer basketball drills

Bill Self discusses Udoka Azubuike’s season-ending injury

Kansas head coach Bill Self discusses the season-ending injury to Jayhawks big man Udoka Azubuike during a press conference Monday, Jan. 7, 2019.
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Kansas head coach Bill Self discusses the season-ending injury to Jayhawks big man Udoka Azubuike during a press conference Monday, Jan. 7, 2019.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike has been cleared for full participation in summer basketball practice drills, KU coach Bill Self said Monday — the day before the start of the first session of summer school classes at KU.

“He has (been cleared to practice without limits). But we’ll probably still go slow,” Self, KU’s 17th-year basketball coach, said in a text message to The Star.

Azubuike, a 7-foot senior-to-be from Delta, Nigeria, tore a ligament in his right hand after getting it hit in a drill at practice on Jan. 4 — the day before a loss to Iowa State in Ames, Iowa. He had surgery by Thomas J. Graham on Jan. 9 in New York. The injury was similar to a torn tendon in his left hand sustained in December 2016 that shelved him the rest of his freshman campaign.

Azubuike averaged 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds a game in nine games in 2018-19. As a sophomore in 2017-18, Azubuike averaged 13.0 points and 7.0 rebounds a game while playing 36 games for the Jayhawks, who reached the Final Four. He hit 77 percent of his shots in 2017-18, best mark in the country. He only made 41.3 percent of his free throws, however.

Last season, he hit 70.5 percent of his floor shots but was 11 of 32 from the line for 34.4 percent. His best games last season were a 23-point, 11-rebound outing against Vermont and 23-point, nine-rebound effort against Eastern Michigan. He also had 18 points and nine boards against Stanford and 17 points and three boards against Michigan State. KU was 9-0 in games he played.

Las Vegas has spoken

The Westgate Superbook of Las Vegas on Monday listed the odds of KU winning the 2020 NCAA basketball title at 12-1.

The odds were mentioned Monday in an article at CBSsports.com.

Michigan State has 6-1 odds to win it all, followed by Kentucky and Duke at 10-1. KU and Memphis are both 12-1.

“The Spartans are returning three of the top four scorers from a 32-win team that won the Big Ten regular-season title, Big Ten Tournament title and advanced to the Final Four. They’ll be led by reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston, who is the favorite to be the preseason national player of the year,” writes Gary Parrish of CBSsports.com.

More top 25 rankings

Kansas is ranked No. 16 in Athlon Sports’ 2019-20 preseason poll.

Kentucky is ranked No. 1, Michigan State 2, Villanova 3 and Duke 4. Texas Tech is the only Big 12 team ranked ahead of KU — at No. 10. Baylor made the poll at No. 19.

The Jayhawks are ranked No. 8 in Andy Katz’s preseason top 36 available at NCAA.com.

“The Jayhawks could have the most intimidating frontcourt in the country with Udoka Azubuike and Silvio De Sousa. Getting Devon Dotson (Quentin Grimes is transferring) will allow KU to have the necessary experience on the perimeter. If this team stays healthy then they will be in the chase for a Final Four berth,” Katz writes.

Texas Tech was ranked No. 5 and Baylor 17 — the only other Big 12 teams in Katz’s early rankings.

Meanwhile, KU checked in at No. 12 in the latest preseason poll of Gary Parrish of CBSsports.com. Texas Tech is 13 and Baylor 20.

“The Jayhawks will have to replace three of the top six scorers from last season’s team that finished 17th at KenPom. But a core of Devon Dotson, Udoka Azuibuike and Silvio De Sousa should make KU the favorite in the Big 12,” writes Parrish.

KU lacking draft candidates this year

KU will have no players selected in the 2019 NBA Draft, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony speculated on Monday. Dedric Lawson and Lagerald Vick in the past have been mentioned as possible second-round selections. They have been busy working out for NBA teams the past several weeks. NBAdraft.net also has no Jayhawks listed in its latest mock draft.

In all, 89 college players, including KU’s Silvio De Sousa, Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes recently removed their names from the draft pool. Eighty seven early-entry college players kept their names in the draft. Those from the Big 12 who withdrew their names by the May 29 deadline: Dotson, De Sousa, Grimes, KU; Xavier Sneed, Kansas State; Desmond Bane, Jaylen Fisher, Kevin Samuel, TCU.

Roundball Classic set for June 20

Tickets for the 11th-annual Rock Chalk Roundball Classic KU alumni basketball game (7 p.m., June 20, Eudora High School) are on sale at KC Soda Company in the City Market Area, Jersey Mike’s in Topeka (both locations) and the 23rd Street Brewery in Lawrence, the game’s organizer, Brian Hanni, has stated.

Information on the game, which will include nearly 50 former KU players, is available at rockchalkroundballclassic.com.

All proceeds benefit five local families families fighting pediatric cancer.

In addition to the game, a celebrity dinner will be held June 21 at Abe and Jakes in Lawrence. More than 35 Jayhawks will attend with one or two former KU players and/or coaches at each table. There also will be a roundtable discussion featuring former KU players. Also, the Roundball Celebrity golf tournament will be held June 22 at Lawrence Country Club.

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