Kansas basketball's biggest offseason addition might turn out to be not an acquisition, but rather, a retainment. On Monday, the program announced that junior center Udoka Azubuike will not declare for the NBA Draft and to play one final season for the Jayhawks as a senior in 2019-20
Azubuike played just nine games last season before a season-ending wrist injury cut short what was shaping up to be a career season for him. He'll enter next season as one of the most dominant big men in the Big 12 and a cog that could key KU to a fabulous season if he can stay healthy.
"We're all very excited about Udoka making the decision not to enter the draft," Bill Self said in a statement. "Unfortunately for him, injury is the reason as he still cannot participate 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."
When Azubuike has been available, he has been an authoritative post presence, wielding his 7-foot, 270-pound frame with precision and power in the paint. In his only full season, which came in 2017-18, he averaged 13.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game in 34 starts. It's no coincidence that season ended with a run to the Final Four; during his career, KU is 47-9 when Azubuike plays and 41-14 without him since the 2016-17 season.
"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."
As a sophomore in 2017-18, Azubuike led the NCAA's Division I in field-goal percentage at 77.0% and was equal parts efficient and dominant.
Kansas is expected to lose leading scorer Dedric Lawson to the NBA Draft after a stellar junior season as well as former five-star Quentin Grimes, but it could potentially return starting point guard Devon Dotson in addition to rising freshman Ochai Agbaji and two four-star signees to next year's roster. Even with the top two scorers off last season's roster all but gone, Self has a sturdy foundation to build a Big 12 contender.