CHICAGO — Kansas center Udoka Azubuike had a strong showing during the first day of scrimmages at the NBA draft combine here, but he knows that might not change the league's perception of him as a prospect who could use another season or two at KU.
"Pretty much, I'm not in a hurry," Azubuike said after scoring 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting and grabbing six rebounds in 25 minutes. "If it is going to take me another year or what not, according to what the NBA says, (then) I'm going to go by what the NBA says."
So, although Azubuike has not made an official decision on whether to return to KU, he said he would "pretty much" need a guarantee from a NBA franchise that it would select him in the first round of the 2018 draft in order to go pro now. And he does not appear in most mock drafts, so it's unlikely he will receive such a guarantee.
The 18-year-old center must decide whether to return for his junior year at Kansas by May 30, and he said he plans to discuss his next move with his coaches once the combine ends on Friday. Operating without an agent, Azubuike said Kansas head coach Bill Self and assistant coach Norm Roberts have been his main sources of advice as he navigates the pre-draft process. Roberts was even in attendance here on Thursday.
Azubuike measured in as one of the biggest prospects participating in the combine. His standing reach (9 feet, 4.5 inches) and wingspan (7-7) both rank second among all prospects, behind only Texas' Mo Bamba. The 273-pound Azubuike's height without shoes, 6-10, ranks fifth.
But his lack of shooting ability — he missed all four of his free throws on Thursday, even airballing one — is a concern for teams as the NBA falls increasingly in love with 3-pointers. One NBA scout told The Star they also had concerns about Azubuike's conditioning.
"I just don't know if someone like him is needed anymore," the scout said. "I just think he's in the wrong era."
But Azubuike compared himself to a few NBA players: the Los Angeles Clippers' DeAndre Jordan, the Houston Rocket's Clint Capela and the Detroit Piston's Andre Drummond. All three impact games despite their limited shooting range because they are effective rebounders and strong finishers at the rim.
"They play exactly the way I play, or I play exactly the way they play," Azubuike said. "DeAndre Jordan — I feel like I play similar. Running the floor, dunking the ball. The dude from Houston, (Clint) Capela, I play exactly the same way, pretty much. Rim running, setting good screens, protecting the rim. Andre Drummond — using left, right hook shots."
Capela's Rockets met with Azubuike on Wednesday. Azubuike said he had meetings with the Boston Celtics and New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday.
"I want to play in the league," he said. "(But) if you're not in the first round, it's not a guarantee."