Kansas' Udoka Azubuike to Undergo Season-Ending Surgery on Hand Injury

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2019

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 23: Udoka Azubuike #35 of the Kansas Jayhawks reacts during the second half of the game against Tennessee Volunteers at the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament at Barclays Center on November 23, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Kansas Jayhawks junior center Udoka Azubuike will miss the remainder of the 2018-19 season in order to undergo surgery on his right hand, Kansas head coach Bill Self announced Sunday.

"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 (Dec. 2016)," Self said in the Jayhawks' official press release. "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."

Azubuike appeared in nine games, averaging 13.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. The Athletic's Seth Davis wondered whether his absence will exacerbate Kansas' struggles from the perimeter:

Seth Davis @SethDavisHoops

Just seeing the Azubuike news. Lost for the season for Kansas. Huge bummer. I know they played smallball without him before, but this is a lousy three-point shooting team. Will the streak finally end?

The Jayhawks are tied for 271st in made three-pointers (89) and 176th in three-point percentage (34.4). Having the 7'0" Azubuike inside allowed them to survive without consistent long-range shooting.

Now, the 6'9" Dedric Lawson is the tallest among Kansas' regular rotation players. Self may have to rely more on David McCormack, a 6'10" true freshman who's averaging 7.2 minutes per game. McCormack was the No. 5 center in the 2018 recruiting class, per 247Sports.

Either way, losing Azubuike further depletes a frontcourt that was also counting on the services of Silvio De Sousa. Self has held De Sousa out since the sophomore forward was connected to the FBI's trial into corruption in the NCAA.

This week was already bad enough for Kansas after it lost 77-60 to Iowa State on Saturday, bringing the team's record 12-2. Now, the Jayhawks' streak of 14 straight regular-season Big 12 titles could be in serious jeopardy.