Freshman center Udoka Azubuike is out for the season after suffering a wrist injury, the school announced.
“Surgery should take place in the next few weeks and doctors are confident he will make a full recovery and be full speed sometime this summer,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “This is a blow to our team but I know that we will rally around this and Udoka will work hard to insure a full recovery. “
Azubuike, who is not NBA draft eligible until 2018, was averaging five points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 12.9 minutes per game for Kansas, which has won 10-straight since dropping its season opener to Indiana. The Jayhawks face UNLV on Thursday before opening Big 12 play next week.
The 7-foot, 280-pounder was part of a frontcourt by committee for Self with Landen Lucas, Carlton Bragg and Mitchell Lightfoot all spending time there alongside freshman phenom Josh Jackson at power forward.
While there isn’t another 7-footer to take Azubuike’s place, the Jayhawks do have a ton of lineup versatility with players like Jackson, Svi Mykhailiuk, Lightfoot and Lagerald Vick that can slide up and down the lineup. Self doesn’t have a ready-made replacement, but he’s got plenty of options for how to move forward.
Kansas players make weight room gains – and losses – this summer
Summer is the time to refine not only players’ skill sets, but also their bodies. Kansas’ highly-touted freshman duo of Josh Jackson and Udoka Azubuike have fulfilled the latter thanks to the Jayhawks’ strength and conditioning program.
“These guys have goals,” Adrea Hurdy, Kansas’ long-time assistant director for sports information, told The Star. “They come here in part because we have the resources to help them attain their goals.
“They want the challenge and want to become better people, better basketball players and better athletes.”
Only 16 years old, Azubuike arrived in Lawrence having been consistently listed as weighing around 270 pounds throughout his prep career. Getting leaner while still maintaining – and increasing – strength is a significant development for such a young player, who was a consensus top-50 player in the 2016 class.
Jackson, the country’s top rated incoming freshman, now weighs in at slightly over 200 pounds at 6-foot-8. Six-foot-10 forward Carlton Bragg,a sophomore, also got in on the body-changing as he’s put on 26 pounds to head into the fall at 247 pounds.
Kansas is a likely top-five preseason team with returners like Frank Mason III, Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, and having newcomers like Jackson and Azubuike along with sparsely-used but talented returnees like Bragg making gains in the weight room will only make them more formidable as they look to capture an astounding 13th-straight Big 12 title.
Five-star 2016 center Udoka Azubuike selects Kansas
Choosing from his final four of Florida State, Kansas, N.C. State and North Carolina, Azubuike gives the Jayhawks a bruising center who can seal and score within five feet of the basket with the best of the them. Although Azubuike will need to improve his hands, range and touch, he’s a massive post prospect who should be able to rebound, score near the hoop and clog up the paint on defense.
With Kansas losing Perry Ellis, Hunter Mickelson and Jamari Traylor, Azubuike gives the Jayhawks another big body on the interior and he’s also an important commitment in case Cheick Diallo or Carlton Bragg decide to turn pro.
Azubuike helped a very good Georgia Stars team win the Peach Jam in the Nike EYBL this summer as he played in 25 games. The center averaged 13.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game while shooting 66 percent from the field in EYBL play.
Azubuike joins three-star forward Mitch Lightfoot in Kansas recruiting efforts for the Class of 2016.
Top-15 2016 recruit Udoka Azubuike nearly brings down the hoop with one-handed dunk
In California, 2017 recruit Cody Riley shattered a backboard with a left-handed dunk attempt at a summer showcase. Over in Charlottesville, Virginia, at the NBPA Top 100 Camp, Udoka Azubuike, one of the top big men in the Class of 2016, nearly brought down the entire goal with a strong, one-handed slam.
The 6-foot-11 Azubuike holds offers from Florida State, Kansas and Wake Forest and is considered the No. 13 overall player in the class, according to Rivals.
In 17 games in the Nike EYBL, Azubuike is averaging 13.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game for the Georgia Stars, a team that will compete in next month’s Peach Jam.
Class of 2016 big man Udoka Azubuike has emerged as a top-ten player in the class this spring. The 6-foot-9, 260-pound Azubuike is currently the No. 7 player in the class, according to Rivals, and the native of Jacksonville, Florida had a productive spring with Nike Team Florida.
Azubuike averaged 13.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game in 16 EYBL games this spring and also shot 71 percent from the field.
Florida and Florida State would love to keep Azubuike in the Sunshine State, but other schools from across the country will check out the center in the next few weeks during the live evaluation period.