Sidelines with John Clay

Kansas basketball won’t have star center when it comes to Rupp Arena

Udoka Azubuike, a 7-footer from Nigeria, was averaging 13.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game this season.
Udoka Azubuike, a 7-footer from Nigeria, was averaging 13.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game this season. Kansas City Star

Three weeks before it comes to Rupp Arena for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, Kansas announced some big and bad news on Sunday night. Star center Udoka Azubuike is out for the season after tearing a ligament in his right hand during during practice on Friday.

“Udoka had an MRI done this morning and the MRI revealed he tore the same ligament in his right hand that he tore in his left hand his freshman season,” Kansas Coach Bill Self said in a statement released by the school. “This occurred in practice on Friday and although the initial X-rays did not reveal the extent of the injury, the MRI did and it will require season-ending surgery.”

The 7-footer from Nigeria was averaging 13.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game this season. He averaged 13 points and seven rebounds last season as a sophomore. He missed the final 25 games in 2016-17 after his first ligament tear.

Kansas plays at Kentucky on Jan. 26 as part of the annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Self’s team is 9-0 with Azubuike and 3-2 without him this season. He did not play in the Jayhawks’ 77-60 loss at Iowa State on Saturday.

The injury is a blow to Kansas, which was ranked No. 1 in the AP preseason poll. After winning their first 10 games, the Jayhawks lost at Arizona State on Dec. 22 and dropped to fifth in the AP poll.

Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson leads the Jayhawks in scoring at 18.6 and averages 11.1 rebounds per game. Senior Lagerald Vick is next at 14.8 points per game. Devon Dotson is also averaging in double figures at 11.3 points per game.

Texas Tech, 13-1 with its only loss coming against Duke in New York, may now be the favorite in the Big 12. And Iowa State is 12-2 after its 17-point win over KU on Saturday. And Texas is off to a 2-0 league start. The Longhorns are 12-4 overall. Meanwhile, Kansas takes on 12-1 TCU on Wednesday night in Lawrence.

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