Utah Jazz’s Udoka Azubuike suffers another right ankle injury in game with SLC Stars

The second-year center has now had three right ankle injuries in the past 13 months. He is set to undergo an X-ray in San Antonio and an MRI in Salt Lake City.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz center Udoka Azubuike (20) stretches out for a block on Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) as the Utah Jazz host the Houston Rockets at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Monday, Feb. 14, 2022.

Utah Jazz center Udoka Azubuike suffered an ankle injury in the final seconds of Thursday night’s G League game between the Salt Lake City Stars and the Texas Legends.

Azubuike, who had been assigned to the affiliate Stars on Thursday afternoon along with rookie guard Jared Butler, had an impressive outing — totaling 16 points, 17 rebounds, four blocks and two steals in 30 minutes of action.

However, he suffered a right ankle injury with four seconds to go in the game, when he was headed into the paint, stepped on an opponent’s foot, and appeared to dislocate his ankle. After being attended to by trainers on the court, he was able to walk off under his own power.

On Friday morning, the Jazz announced that Azubuike will travel to San Antonio to meet with team staff, and will undergo X-rays at the AT&T Center. He’ll subsequently return to Salt Lake City with the team postgame, and undergo an MRI and further examination by Utah Jazz and University of Utah staff.

This is the third ankle injury that Azubuike has suffered in the past 13 months.

He was first injured on Feb. 10, 2021 while playing for the Stars in their season opener against the Erie Bayhawks in the G League in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. He went up for a jump-hook, made contact in-air with an Erie player, went off-balance, then landed on a player’s foot, causing his right ankle to roll and his lower leg to bend violently outward.

Despite how gruesome the injury looked in the moment — he had to be carted off the court — it was subsequently determined to be only a severe sprain, though the injury did keep him out for an extended period.

The 27th pick of the 2020 draft was injured again on Nov. 26, 2021, while once again on assignment with the Stars. This time, against the Stockton Kings, he went up to challenge a shot with 57 seconds remaining in the first quarter and landed awkwardly, causing his right leg to buckle.

He was later diagnosed with a subluxation of the right ankle — in effect, a dislocation in which the bone temporarily pops out of joint.

The injury kept him out until Jan. 5 of this year, when he made a shock start in Denver, with both Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside ruled out. He played 15:36 in his return to action, while having to fend off reigning MVP Nikola Jokic.

He showed additional flashes of improvement in subsequent appearances — eight points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks in a Feb. 2 win over Denver; 10 points and 11 rebounds in a victory against Brooklyn; seven points, 14 boards, and three blocks in beating the Knicks.

In a six-game stretch between Feb. 2-14, he averaged 9.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks.

Overall this season, the second-year center from Kansas has appeared in 15 games with the Jazz and is averaging 4.7 points (on 75.5% shooting) and 4.2 rebounds per game.