Update on Duke offer to 2016 big man

Duke has started to heavily recruit 2016 big man Udoka Azubuike, but there are questions surrounding his status as a scholarship offeree. We spoke with the prospect yesteday and today sat down with his coach to get clarification on several points.

What's your thoughts on having Udoka here in Charlottesville for NBA Top 100 Camp?

Stephen McLaughlin (Udoka Azubuike's High School Coach): Yeah, sounds like he's doing all right up there. He's a flat out animal man, I don't use that term all that much because so many people use it, but he really is, he's an animal on the court. He's a freak, he's so big and so athletic and so genetically strong, we've barely let him lift weights because I don't want him to get too big. What he does is push ups all the time, he really is a worker man, all the time.

What's it been like coaching him with him only being here for a couple of years and having only played organized basketball for such a short period of time?

He is a sponge, whatever I tell him to do, he does it, whatever I tell him to work on, he works on, he's a sponge and a great kid. He always is asking what's next and that's the good thing about him, he came in raw, he was very raw but he had some tools, he was already a shot blocker, that came natural to him. Once he started learning how to drop step the proper way and do the jump hook, you can see, his game is catching up to his body and we're still coaching him and i'm loving every moment of it. We've never had any awkward moment, he trusts me and I trust him on the court to make the right decision, it's been great.

How did you guys find out about Udoka?

Well, I know a guy who works a camp out in Africa and he called and he said there is some kids over there and he called about Udoka and with a kid that big and that young, we gotta go get him, we gotta work with him and he has been tremendous, he's been great to work with.

How has his transition into the American academic system been?

Oh, it's been great, he had a 3.6 grade point average, he takes it serious, he doesn't joke around with his grades, he knows what needs to be done and he knocks it out. He will not go to any event without having his school done, he's not going to miss practice, but we typically have study hall right after school and he really takes advantage of that, some kids will joke around with that, put their headphones on, stuff like that, but not him. He's in tutoring every day and he really works on his academic stuff. He's a great student-athlete, he really is.

How have you been handling the explosion in phone calls that have come in this week?

Man, my phone hasn't stopped ringing since Sunday, it has not stopped ringing and I new it was gonna happen. Even before this, my phone was busy, but the phone really started ringing a lot about midway through this past season. When I told coaches who were talking to me about him that he was literally just in the 10th grade, guys jaws just dropped and that's when my phone really started ringing and coaches were saying we hear you have the next big thing down there and once we got him into EYBL, we knew it was going to be even more.

The schools that have reached out this week, which ones have really caught your attention with what they have said to you and Udoka?

Well of course, the elite schools, I'd be lying, I mean getting an offer from Kentucky, Duke or Kansas, you'd be lying if you didn't say that those caught your eyes. A couple other schools, like Georgetown, they are known for having great bigs and of course, Wake Forest now with Danny Manning, when he was at Kansas, all that type of stuff, we're taking in a lot of schools and what we're going to do when he gets back next week is we're going to sit down and kinda weed out down to 10-15 schools that we have our eye on and that we have serious interest in and then we're gonna go from there. Everybody has called and they all want him, it's been fun and it's cool. I had a kid last year that he's going to Oklahoma next year, he was my first big man and he kinda went through the same thing with my phone ringing, so I was kinda used to it already but with Udoka, it's kinda going through the roof, it's going up a notch in terms of interest, but it's cool.

Udoka mentioned earlier that you told him that Duke called you, can you confirm if they gave you a firm, committable scholarship offer for Udoka when you were on the phone with them?

Well, you know the way Duke does it, Coach K always does the actual, like he will call and give the official, actual offer but you know, Coach Capel specifically told me that they definitely offered him, they definitely want him, they definitely have him towards the top of their list for interest and all that stuff. He said the actual, official offer will come from Coach K, but they pretty much offered, you know how it is, I don't want to say they offered because it's not official until Coach K offers, but they definitely, he's on the top of their recruiting list, they want him bad, real bad. Me and Coach Capel, we talked for awhile and the only reason why we didn't talk with Coach K that day was because he had a camp going that day but definitely with Coach Capel, he's the associate head coach, we are definitely going to make it happen with getting him on the phone with Coach K. Technically if you want to say that he doesn't an offer until Coach K offers you can, but I understand it and Coach Capel and I know it's official when Coach K gives it.

What else did Coach Capel discuss with you?

He talked about how much they liked him and how aggressive he was when they saw him play in Sacramento with EYBL. They talked about how Jahlil is going to be one and done and then they have another big kid coming in for the next year and they really need to get a big fella to come in in 2016 and really be that guy for them and compete. I joke with them a little bit because i'm a huge Coach K fan, he's arguably the greatest basketball coach of all time, but i've never been too fond of Duke, so we joked a little bit and I told him that it wasn't going to be an issue for them and if Udoka told me he wanted to go to Duke tomorrow, I wouldn't do anything to stop it. We talked about him being the focal point and him playing in the ACC, top conference in the country, all that stuff.

Any visits in the planning process for Udoka?

Yeah definitely, we definitely when we get back and we are going to get on the phone with coaches like Coach K and we definitely are going to get that done. He'll look at Virginia, we'll call them or they will call us. He's going to take his first ACT/SAT in September and then he'll start thinking about taking some visits here and there, maybe Florida since they are in driving distance, Florida, Florida State, places like that.

If a Duke offer is given, how much do you see that affecting Udoka's recruitment?

I don't think it's going to change nothing right now, it's going to affect things of course because it's Coach K, it's awesome if you get an offer from Coach K, but it will have an affect in terms of Coach K said he wants me in his program.

It sounds like Udoka was impressed with Coach Calipari as well?

I know every young kid, they want the one and done and it's Kentucky and I know that he had interest in them, so when they called, so we're going to take things and not rush into anything. I know when Calipari called, he did get excited about that.

Is it important for him to take all five official visits?

I think we take them one at a time to really see how it is. Me personally I would want him to take all five but whatever he wants to do that's fine but me personally I'm going to recommend he take all five, that way he has the information he needs when we have to make the decision. He wants to learn the history of these schools.

Are you going to be the main guy advising Udoka?

Most definitely, I'm involved with all my kids, and I'm going to be there for him and he's already asking me certain things right now and he really hasn't gotten too much into it yet. We definitely are really going to have that talk soon and lay things out and I'm sure he's going to lean on me as he makes his decision but I'm not by any means going to force him to go anywhere, I want him to go where he wants to go 100%.

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