Center Azubuike to return to Kansas for senior season



April 23, 2019 - 10:05 AM

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) walks past head coach Bill Self during an NCAA Tournament national semifinal on March 31, 2018, in San Antonio, Texas. Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star/TNS

Kansas junior center Udoka Azubuike, who played just nine games this past season because of injury, has decided to return to KU for his senior season.

Azubuike, a 7-foot, 270-pound native of Delta, Nigeria, averaged 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds a game in 2018-19. He tore a ligament in his right hand and had surgery in early January. 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.

“We’re all very excited about Udoka making the decision not to enter the (NBA) draft,” KU basketball coach Bill Self said in a release. “Unfortunately for him, injury is the reason as he still cannot participate (at) what would be the NBA combine or workouts for the NBA teams. We really anticipated that this would be the year he would enter the draft but that was also based on him having an injury-free year.”

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. This past 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 this 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.

Azubuike tested the NBA draft waters last spring, ultimately electing to return to school.

“Udoka knows that he still has some unfinished work left in college and at the University of Kansas and he has let us know that he is very excited about the potential for next year’s team and the role in which he would have,” Self said. “I am sad he got hurt but happy for our program because if things fall the way that we think they could potentially fall, this is a big piece to anchor what could be a real fun year next season.”

KU players Dedric Lawson, Quentin Grimes, Devon Dotson and Silvio De Sousa have entered their names in the draft. A new rule allows players to hire agents. If they elect to return to school they must disassociate with the agent. The deadline to return is May 29.