Jazz Azubuike On Return: ‘It Took A Lot Of Hard Work’

May 6, 2021, 5:33 PM | Updated: May 7, 2021, 12:39 pm
Udoka Azubuike - Utah Jazz vs. Portland Trail Blazers...
Udoka Azubuike #20 of the Utah Jazz dribbles against the Portland Trail Blazers during the second half of the game at Moda Center on December 23, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Udoka Azubuike is listed as probable for the Utah Jazz as they prepare to face the Denver Nuggets on Friday night.

The 2020 first-round pick for the Jazz left the Jazz in late January to joining the Salt Lake City Stars for the abbreviated D League season in Orlando.

However, Azubuike suffered a gruesome-looking ankle injury in his Stars debut and missed the remainder of the minor league season.

Azubuike hasn’t played for the Jazz since January 29, missing 47 consecutive games since his last appearance.

“It took a lot of hard work just to get back,” Azubuike said of high ankle sprain. “All thanks to to the staff, [Jazz trainer] Jordan [Harding] he played a huge part in my progress.”

In April, after returning to the team’s workouts, coach Quin Snyder discussed the rehab process.

“He’s working really hard,” Snyder said. “You think about what he’s been through in his rookie year from the time that the college season was canceled last year, and waiting through the entire process of the draft, then joining a team where he’s playing behind Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors.”

Azubuike appeared in 12 games for the Jazz early in the season where he averaged 1.0 points and 1.1 rebounds in just 4.1 minutes of action. The former Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year scored eight points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Stars before injuring his ankle in the Orlando bubble during his G League debut.

With an injury as significant as Azubuike’s, the rehab process required more than just strengthening his ankle.

“Just getting stronger, getting my legs right, and also trying to stay in shape,” Azubuike said of his rehabilitation. “It’s been a lot of hard work and all the credit goes to the training staff.”

Though Azubuike is listed as probable, the Jazz will be without Donovan Mitchell (ankle), Mike Conley (hamstring), and Juwan Morgan (heel) when they host the Nuggets.

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Jazz Azubuike On Return: ‘It Took A Lot Of Hard Work’