It’s unfortunate Udoka Azubuike is going to the miss the remainder of the season after undergoing wrist surgery. The 17-year-old born in Nigeria posted impressive numbers in his 142 minutes through the non-conference part of Kansas’ schedule and might have remained an active part of the rotation throughout the year, even if in a limited role – as he was averaging just 13 minutes per game and posting a 21.1% usage rate.
Despite his age, the seven-footer managed to dominate low level competition due to his strength and physicality. Kansas lists the teenager at 280 pounds and he right away managed to translate his general size into consistently great position below the foul line and the ability to bully opponents into short attempts near the basket. According to hoop-math, he shot 20-for-29 at the rim and earned 8.2 foul shots per 40 minutes – per basketball-reference.
Azubuike will probably have a size advantage against just about every opponent he faces at the college level but when he eventually makes it to the pros, he’ll need to improve his skill level, which is still in its infancy. There will be players who can elevate out of two feet in a pinch and block his shot, so Azubuike needs to develop footwork for some counters, touch for his hooks, an escape dribble and passing skills against double-teams.
Being an ace post scorer should be essential for his odds because Azubuike doesn’t project as much of a finisher out of the pick-and-roll, as he doesn’t have enough explosiveness to play above the rim as a target for lobs. There is, of course, always the chance that he becomes a Tiago Splitter-type of rim-level finisher but Azubuike hasn’t shown that sort of nimbleness in his rim runs.
He also hasn’t yet shown anything in terms of an outside jumper, given he probably never had to work on that in high school, so there is no indication he could one day become a potential pick-and-pop threat years down the line, especially considering he converted just 11 of his 29 free throws this season.
So other than scoring with his back to the basket, the only area Azubuike can make an impact on offense at this point of his development is grabbing some offensive rebounds. He is not a high leaper but can set inside position, should be a pain to boxout if he plays with some energy and has a seven-foot-five wingspan to rebound outside of his area. Yet, Azubuike collected just 10.5% of Kansas’ misses when he was on the floor, which is not quite a disappointing mark but also not a particularly impressive one for someone with his measurements.
Defensively, Azubuike also produced the most close to the basket thanks to his size. He showed decent awareness rotating to the front of the rim when he only needed a step or two, proved himself able to get off the ground well enough for his length to make a difference and looked attentive to his boxout responsibilities – averaging 5.1 blocks per 40 minutes and collecting 25.1% of opponents’ misses when he was in the game.
He fouled a ton, though. Azubuike flashed some ability to jump up vertically challenging shots the basket but was rarely given the benefit of the doubt in his first year, being called for 8.7 personal fouls per 40 minutes on average.
But the real big concern regards his mobility. Azubuike didn’t look as good when he needed to come off the weak-side in help-defense, often unable to get there in time. And he’s not suited to guard above the foul line, which might make him unfit for this new era where more and more ball-handlers are starting to develop a pull-up three-pointer out of the pick-and-roll to punish big men who can’t venture beyond the lane.
 Udoka only turns 18 in September, so he’s ineligible for the 2017 draft
 Azubuike had just two assists in 11 appearances and averaged 4.2 turnovers per 40 minutes
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara