The No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks’ basketball team took a hit Sunday with news that starting center Udoka Azubuike will miss the rest of the season with a wrist injury. Azubuike will undergo surgery to fix “ligament damage” in his right hand, according to a statement from the school
A statement from Bill Self on the results of Udoka Azubuike’s MRI. #KUbball
MORE ➡️ https://t.co/jBiGOvZPD4 pic.twitter.com/yBPKg0Gt4s
— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) January 7, 2019
Initially, the Jayhawks believed it wouldn’t be a season-ending injury after X-rays returned negative. Azubuike sat for Kansas’ game against Iowa State, which they lost, 77-60, in Ames. Before the game, head coach Bill Self said this of the situation:
A statement from @CoachBillSelf on Udoka Azubuike for today’s game vs. Iowa State #KUbball pic.twitter.com/LCg9QajiY5
— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) January 5, 2019
This is a huge blow for the Jayhawks. Azubuike was averaging 13.4 points per game (third on the team) and 6.8 rebounds (second). He only played nine games this year with various other injury issues, but he started all nine. Azubuike is a good rim protector for Self’s defense, averaging 2.2 blocks per game. Offensively, he takes high percentage shots and leads the team in shooting at a 71 percent clip.
As a junior, Azubuike has dealt with more than his fair share of injuries already. He started six of 11 games during his freshman year before the same injury occurred in his left hand and ended his season. In his second year at Kansas, Azubuike started 34 of 36 games and led the nation in FG% at 77 percent, showing his full potential as the Jayhawks went all the way to the Final Four.
Kansas this season is 12-2 with their losses coming at Arizona State (which Azubuike missed with an ankle injury) and Iowa State. Azubuike’s frontcourt mate Dedric Lawson has been a star for the Jayhawks, averaging a double-double (18.6 points, 11.1 rebounds), but frontcourt depth is a huge problem as freshman Silvio DeSousa is still ineligible to play. David McCormack (7.2 minutes, 2.5 points per game) and Mitch Lightfoot (8.7 minutes, 2.0 points per game) are the only other players listed as forwards on Kansas’ roster.
The Jayhawks’ streak of 14-straight Big 12 regular season conference titles might be in jeopardy with the big man out. Texas Tech (No. 11) and Oklahoma (No. 23) were in the top-25 last week, and Iowa State could jump into the rankings this week.