KANSAS CITY, Mo. (TNS) — Udoka Azubuike has decided to withdraw from the 2018 NBA draft and return to the University of Kansas for his junior season.
Azubuike, a 7-foot center from Nigeria, entered his name in the draft pool on April 20, but did not sign with an agent, thus keeping open his options of returning to school. Players without agents had until 10:59 p.m. Central time Wednesday to exit the draft if they wished to continue their college careers.
Azubuike's mentor, Harry Coxsome, told The Star that "he decided sometime between last night and this morning."
Since arriving from Nigeria in ninth grade, Azubuike has lived with the Coxsome family in Jacksonville, Fla. In fact, Azubuike was in Jacksonville on Wednesday as the draft deadline approached and a decision had to be finalized.
"He went back and forth with the decision (since putting name in draft pool). It wasn't that pressing (at first). When it came down to making that decision (with Wednesday deadline approaching) it weighed on him. In my opinion, it was to raise his draft stock," Coxsome added of Azubuike's ultimate reason for returning to KU.
Azubuike hit a school-record 77.0 percent of his shots but made just 41.3 percent of his free throws a year ago.
"I received good feedback from many sources around the NBA over the last month but in the end, after discussing with my family and coaches, we decided it would be in my best interest to return to Kansas for my junior year," Azubuike said in a release. "I want to thank the people in the NBA who gave me this opportunity. I believe it was an important step as I chase my dream to play basketball at the highest level. I'm looking forward to next season and can't wait to get to work with my teammates. Rock Chalk!"
Azubuike recently attended the NBA draft combine in Chicago, scoring 27 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in a pair of scrimmages. He averaged 13.0 points and 7.0 rebounds a game his sophomore season at KU.
"We're all very excited about Udoka making the decision to return for his junior year," KU coach Bill Self said. "We supported him declaring and investigating, which I think was a smart move. It was certainly a move that was handled exactly as the rule was intended. He wanted to find out more information on what the NBA franchises thought of him and he was able to accomplish that in many ways. The feedback that he got and that we received was that he's definitely improved and NBA personnel think very favorably of him. He certainly performed well at the combine, but the information he received led him to the decision to return to school.
"I know that he's excited to come back and to be a part of what could be a really nice team. Certainly, I'm looking forward to his role and production increasing dramatically as he will be one of the most experienced players returning."
Coxsome said Azubuike would work on "developing a little bit more of a mid-range jumper," this upcoming season. Coxsome also said he believed Azubuike would have been taken "late first, early second round" had he remained in the draft.
"There are things to consider, draft position, guaranteed contracts, how much money will you make this year versus next year when it'll improve? He knows the money will be there, all the nuances will be there. At the end of the day he knows, 'I'm good regardless,' " Coxsome said.
Azubuike's decision to return leaves KU with one scholarship to give in the recruiting Class of 2018. KU coach Bill Self has said he would either bring in a prolific outside shooter if one was available or save the scholarship for the Class of 2019.
As far as the 2018-19 frontcourt, KU returns Azubuike, Silvio De Sousa and Mitch Lightfoot. Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson is eligible to play in games after practicing last season at KU in accordance with NCAA transfer rules. Freshman David McCormack is a McDonald's All-American expected to be an immediate contributor.