Jazz Rookie Azubuike Values Guidance From Gobert

Dec 14, 2020, 1:14 PM | Updated: 1:15 pm
Udoka Azubuike (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)...
Udoka Azubuike (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
(Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Transitioning to the NBA is a difficult challenge for any rookie. Transitioning as a true big man in an ever-shrinking NBA may be more difficult than ever. Lucky for Utah Jazz rookie Udoka Azubuike, he’s got the help of Rudy Gobert, one of the NBA’s best traditional big men to guide him.

Azubuike made his NBA debut Saturday night in the Jazz 119-105 victory over the Phoenix Suns. The rookie scored six points, grabbed three rebounds, and blocked two shots in just under 13 second-half minutes.

This year’s 27th overall pick, coincidentally the same draft slot that landed the Jazz Gobert, looked startlingly like his mentor on the floor in his first NBA minutes.

On defense, Azubuike twice blocked the shots of Suns reserves as they underestimated the rookie’s incredible length. On offense, he set screens and rolled to the hoop to catch easy lob passes from Elijah Hughes and Trent Forrest.

These are the same plays that have turned Gobert into one of the most imposing big men in the NBA and serve as Azubuike’s pathway to a successful NBA career.

“When I spoke to him before the game, he told me to do what I always do,” Azubuike said of Gobert’s advice. “I’m just going to go out there and play aggressive and be myself.”

While many rookies have to retool their game to find a role in the NBA, Azubuike’s play looked remarkably similar to what he did at Kansas where he set the NCAA record for career field goal percentage and earned Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year Honors as a senior.

“I take so much pride in playing defense,” Azubuike said. “What I did in college, setting screens, rolling to the basket, being able to catch lobs and finish around the rim — This is some of the stuff that I bring to the table.”

Gobert Helping Azubuike

The Jazz originally held the 23rd pick in the first round but dropped back to the 27th pick knowing Azubuike would still be available. Though the Jazz knew who they were targeting with the pick, Gobert was unfamiliar with his incoming protege.

“I didn’t know about him before the draft, because I don’t watch any college,” Gobert said. “But I watched some of his highlights and stuff after he got drafted and I’m excited. I think he has a lot of potential.”

While Gobert didn’t know Azubuike, the Jazz rookie was familiar with Gobert’s game before he landed in Utah. On draft night, the Kansas product mentioned the unique opportunity he would have to learn from a player with such a similar skillset.

“I’m excited from day one to learn from him and to pick his brain,” Azubuike said. “In terms of how he plays, in terms of how he blocks shots, and how he affects games defensively. I’m so just so excited to learn from him.”

Now, just two weeks into his NBA career with one game under his belt, the Jazz rookie recognizes how valuable Gobert’s advice has been.

“Sometimes I try to pick up his mindset,” Azubuike said. “Talk to him about the stuff that I need to get better at and how to get prepared and how he was able to get to where he is. Having a guy like Rudy right beside me is really huge.”

The Jazz will host the Suns for a second straight game Monday night at Vivint Arena. Azubuike is listed as questionable for the game due to left knee soreness after his debut.

  • Utah Jazz Scoreboard

  • Utah Jazz Team Leaders

  • Utah Jazz Standings

Ben Anderson

Ben Anderson

Jazz Host Hawks, Look For Third Straight Win

The Utah Jazz will look for their third straight win when they host the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night at Vivint Arena.
13 hours ago
Donovan Mitchell - Utah Jazz vs. Memphis Grizzlies...
Ben Anderson

Donovan Mitchell, Dillon Brooks Ejected After Fight

Former Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks nearly came to blows in Cleveland Thursday night. 
2 days ago
Ben Anderson

Lauri Markkanen Named To First All-Star Team

Lauri Markkanen will represent the Utah Jazz in front of a home crowd after being selected to his first All-Star team.
2 days ago
Ben Anderson

Jordan Clarkson Takes Nasty Fall In Utah Snow

It's safe to say Jordan Clarkson is an official Utahn after taking a nasty fall in the winter snow in a video posted on Instagram.
2 days ago
Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen shoots against the Dallas Mavericks...
Ben Anderson

Yes, Lauri Markkanen Will Be An All-Star

The NBA is set to announce the All-Star reserves tonight and Utah Jazz fans should expect Lauri Markkanen to hear his name called.
2 days ago
Utah Jazz Center Walker Kessler goes up for a shot...
Ben Anderson

Jazz Overcome Raptors Rebounds, Kessler Dominates

Walker Kessler had one of his best nights as a pro as the Utah Jazz downed the Toronto Raptors 131-128 in Salt Lake City.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...
KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.
KSL Digital Sales

Notable Moments From The Utah Jazz Season… So Far

At the beginning of the season, the Utah Jazz were second to last. Now they rank in the top 10 teams in the Western Conference.
Football soccer ball on grass field on stadium...
KSL Digital Sales

Everything You Need to Know to Watch the 2022 World Cup

Find out where and when to watch the upcoming games and final match for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, including where to find live updates.
ksl sports logos...
KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.
KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Jimmy Buffett

Get your Hawaiian shirts ready.
Iron Maiden tour...
KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden returns to Utah in 2022 with The Legacy of the Beast tour.
Jazz Rookie Azubuike Values Guidance From Gobert