Phoenix Suns’ Udoka Azubuike: ‘I feel like we took a big step’ vs. Rockets

Dec 28, 2023, 9:56 PM | Updated: Dec 29, 2023, 7:27 am

Udoka Azubuike #27 of the Phoenix Suns dunks the ball on De'Aaron Fox #5 and Keegan Murray #13 of t...

Udoka Azubuike #27 of the Phoenix Suns dunks the ball on De'Aaron Fox #5 and Keegan Murray #13 of the Sacramento Kings during the second half at Golden 1 Center on December 22, 2023 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Phoenix Suns center Udoka Azubuike has made the most of his opportunities in limited minutes this season. The former Jayhawk scored 11 points and added five rebounds and two blocks in 19 minutes in a Wednesday win over the Rockets.

Azubuike, the third-string center on a two-way contract, also had 11 points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes in Friday’s loss against the Kings.

“Trying to get that opportunity to play finally in the NBA doesn’t always come that easy,” Azubuike told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Thursday. “For me, I just had that mindset of just staying ready and being in the gym trying to keep my confidence level high because that’s really important. A lot of guys in the NBA, in college they probably were one of the best players in college … but coming into the NBA you know you have to adjust. Maybe being the fourth or sixth guy coming off the bench.

“It’s just how you take it. For me … it’s just keeping my confidence up and working on my game even when I wasn’t playing.”

Azubuike starred in high school as a McDonald’s All-American and at Kansas, where he was named Big 12 Player of the Year in 2020.

But when he started playing his first meaningful minutes this season, some of his teammates advised him not to worry about taking shots.

“Just go out there and have fun and just do what you have to do,” Azubuike said of the advice he received.

Azubuike said he’s also relied on veterans Kevin Durant and Devin Booker to tell him when to pass, shoot or set screens.

“By playing with guys like KD, Book they’ll tell you when the shot is there, take it,” he said. “It was a couple of times when KD was getting double-teamed and he passed the ball to me and it was left for me to make the read … they always encourage that. Our guys, they encourage each other.”

Azubuike continued by saying the communication in the win over Houston was “off the charts.”

“We did a good job communicating on offense and defense and I feel like that helped me and that helped us as a team,” Azubuike said.

The Suns win over the Rockets came after a 12-game stretch where the Suns went 3-9. With Bradley Beal set to return soon, Azubuike is optimistic the Suns will get things rolling.

“I honestly believe we’re gonna figure it out,” he said. “Yesterday, I feel like we took a big step.”

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