Udoka Azubuike was the 22nd-ranked prospect in the 2016 high school class.
Despite having been exposed to some high level basketball, he is still fairly inexperienced. The 18-year-old accumulated just 990 minutes in his two seasons at Kansas, the first of which was lost after the first third due to need for a wrist surgery. Other than that, he has just 124 minutes at the 2015 adidas Nations and one appearance at the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit under his belt.
Azubuike averaged 22 points per 40 minutes on 77% effective shooting and compiled a 26.9 PER in 36 appearances last season.
A seven-foot, 273-pound bruising center, he got his touches in the post, sneaking behind the defense on slower-developing pick-and-rolls and crashing the offensive glass – logging 22.8% usage rate. Azubuike has a massive frame and remarkable length, so even though he still has plenty of room to develop in terms of skill, he manages to produce at a pretty good level due to his general size.
On the other end, the native of Lagos, Nigeria is a positive presence near the basket for the same reasons why he is effective on offense. He is also a little more nimble than his frame suggests but doesn’t figure to have the agility needed to defend out in space in this day and age.
Azubuike can get deep seals in the post due to his size and strength. He doesn’t play with a lot of force trying to get position but doesn’t have to. Most of his shots come via backing his man down and setting up basic hooks. His feet are only so-so. But Azubuike has flashed glimpses of a more advanced skill-set to work his man out of position with shot fakes and head fakes. His touch on these hooks is pretty decent, as he shot 58.3% on his 60 two-point shots away from the basket last season.
Azubuike hasn’t yet developed very good feel for dealing with more challenging approaches by the defense trying to get the ball out of his hands, though – averaging three turnovers per 40 minutes.
He is a good screener who sets his feet and makes it tough for the on-ball defender to get skinny around him, more often than not creating the head-start for the ball-handler that the pick-and-roll is designed to do.
Azubuike isn’t an explosive leaper off two feet diving down the middle of the lane in traffic but proved he is able to play above the rim as a target for lobs sneaking behind the defense on slower-developing pick-and-rolls. He isn’t a high leaper but has a nine-foot-four standing reach to catch the ball in a different stratosphere. His touch on non-dunk finishes is pretty decent too, as he’s shown he’s able to score in a crowd when needed – finishing his 214 attempts at the rim at an 82.2% clip.
He doesn’t have particularly impressive reaction instincts chasing the ball off the rim but made a tangible impact on the offensive glass because he is a tough body to boxout and has a seven-foot-seven wingspan to rebound out of his area – collecting 12.2% of Kansas’ misses when he was on the floor. His second jump isn’t all that quick but he can catch, gather himself and go back strong to finish in a crowd – converting 76.5% of his 21 putback attempts into scores.
As far as more proactively aiding the ball movement process, Azubuike can only assist others on pre-arranged reads, as he hasn’t yet developed court vision to act as a hub to facilitate offense from the high post and doesn’t have the sort of quick instincts to pass out of short rolls – assisting on just 5.7% of Kansas’ scores when he was on the floor and posting a lousy 0.3 assist-to-turnover ratio last season.
Azubuike is an effective rim protector when he is able to hang back and patrol the lane – averaging three blocks per 40 minutes. He moves well enough in tight spaces and goes up quick enough to challenge shots but his blocks materialize more thanks to his massive standing reach rather than his leaping ability, though they came at the cost of him often putting himself in foul trouble, as he averaged 5.1 personal fouls per 40 minutes.
Azubuike flashed some decent awareness with his positioning as well, clogging up driving lanes and shadowing isolations when he felt his teammates might get blown by – averaging 23.6 minutes per game on a team that allowed opponents to take just 28.8% of their shots at the basket.
He proved to be attentive to his boxout responsibilities and did it with some nice physicality too, which also manifests itself in post defense. He struggles some reacting to the ball off the rim, though – collecting just 20.8% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor.
The problems are when he is forced to leave the general area near the basket.
Azubuike is not suited to extend pick-and-roll coverage beyond the foul line. He just doesn’t have the foot speed for it, whether it’s picking up smaller players on switches, hedging-and-recovering in a timely manner, closing out to stretch big men at the three-point line out of the pick-and-pop, showing up to the level of the screen and trying to keep action in front. He even struggled to keep pace with dribble drives when tasked with only having to engage from the foul line down.
Azubuike puts in the effort to contest mid-range pull-ups but at times sells out to do so, needing to develop a better understanding of when it’s best to contest and when it’s best to prioritize getting a head-start getting position for a possible miss.
 DOB: 9/17/1999
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