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Kelenna Azubuike NBA Draft Scouting Report
by:
April 9, 2005
Strengths
Azubuike averaged over 40 points a game in high school, so his scoring prowess is well-established. He's an athletic marvel, chiseled and lean, and owns a 38-40+ inch vertical leap.

Possessing a smooth jump shot and a superior slashing game, Azubuike is probably better-suited to the pro court than the college court. Many of his travelling calls in college would not be called in the NBA, possibly opening up more room for him to maneuver on strong moves to the basket.

The gifted scorer is also a strong free-throw shooter, hitting a cool 75% for his collegiate career, and rarely missing key free throws in tight games. He also managed a 49% mark from the field overall, despite shooting 37% from three-point range, a testament to his excellent mid-range and slashing game.

On his best days, Azubuike finishes like Jason Richardson and shoots like Tracy McGrady. But those days certainly aren't every day.

The junior's defensive skills improved mightily over the course of his UK career, and like many former Tubby Smith players, he projects as an above-average on the ball defender at the next level, something that should help him tremendously as he moves forward.

Most of all, Azubuike's a first-team All-Potential squad member, somewhat of a raw commodity, much as he was upon arriving in Lexington for college.

Weaknesses
Despite often being the most athletically gifted player on the court for either team, Azubuike rarely dominated a game while at Kentucky. He could score in bunches, but too often deferred to his teammates and let the game move without him.

Perhaps Tubby Smith put it best when, while trying to goad Azubuike to play with more presence, the coach noted, "He looks like Tarzan and plays like Jane."

If he is to someday make the NBA, he'll have to become a much better shooter from outside. Kentucky was sorely lacking a player who could hit the open 3 to compliment Rajon Rondo's ability to drive and dish, and Kelenna was not able to do that in many games for Kentucky this year, failing to hit more than one three pointer in 20 of Kentucky's 34 games. This is hardly the type of shooting ability you would expect from an NCAA junior who is confident enough in his offensive skills to forfeit his final year of NCAA eligibility.

Still, Azubuike's junior campaign saw much improvement, especially with the Wildcat's ball-handling skills. But those skills are far from polished and he'll need to work on his dribble to stay in the League. His first step is fairly average, which makes you wonder if he'll be able to slash to the hoop as effectively in the league.

Azubuike is not an overpowering rebounder, though it's hard to tell if that is due to lack of interest rather than lack of ability. As is often the case when Azubuike is discussed, focus and mental toughness are his foibles, not ability or potential.

Put simply, Azubuike is a work in progress, but it remains to be seen if he'll ever reach his immense potential. At some point, you have to stop being a prospect.

Competition
Azubuike took a big step up in competition from a small Oklahoma high school to the SEC, and he'll have to adjust much more quickly to the pro game than the three years it took at UK if he wants to succeed.

The talented scorer's best games in college came against athletically-challenged clubs he could jump over and around. That sort of unbalanced playing field doesn't really exist on the next level, so he'll have to bring it every night.

Azubuike was the leading and go-to scorer on a top five college team, playing night in and night out against the best the SEC had.

Azubuike had one of his best games of the season against eventual National Champion North Carolina back in December, scoring 24 points on 10-19 shooting, including four of six from deep on national television.

He also averaged 18 points a game in the SEC tournament, but flamed out in the 2005 NCAAs, including a memorable OT snafu where he dribbled out the clock trying to get an open look and failed to get a shot off in time. Failing to show up in big games might end up as his legacy at Kentucky when Wildcat fans look back at his career and wonder "what if?"

Outlook
Recent drafts have shown the biggest leapers up the draft board to be athletically-gifted scorers (and perceived works-in-progress) like Tony Allen, Andre Igoudala and Delonte West. Azubuike could well be this year's version of Allen, a talented scorer whose game is simply better-suited to the pro court.

Azubuike is probably a second-round pick, but could move into the first round if he wows scouts and GMs in private workouts and camps.

With that said, he could just as well go undrafted. His weak mental makeup makes you wonder if he has what it takes to spend a couple of years in Europe making 60-80 thousand a year while bouncing around Eastern Europe. Azubuike clearly needed another year of college, but its probably too late to talk about that.

Facts
Azubuike originally verballed to Oklahoma, but changed his mind when fellow Oklahoman (and apparent nemesis) D'Angelo Alexander decided to attend OU.

 


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