With supreme bounce and a silky-smooth jumpshot, 2014 swingman Kelly Oubre is ready to dominate the nation.
by Eldon Khorshidi | @eldonadam
On the high school hoops scene, the word “stock” gets thrown around all the time. Every year, when the first AAU live period begins, there’s always players who, for some reason, catch your eye. Players who’ve physically matured, improved their skills and taken their game to another level, and emerge to leave recruiting experts and coaches in bewilderment. Players who, for lack of a better analogy, enter the market with a high IPO.
Over the past few months, if you’ve been following the high school landscape with even the slightest interest, one relatively mysterious name has made noise at nearly every event, almost ubiquitously. That name is Kelly Oubre Jr.
A 6-6, 190-pound lefty swingman in the Class of 2014, Oubre has been one of the most underrated and overlooked players in the country for a long time. At the grassroots level, very rarely do we see players with the arsenal of skills that Oubre possesses. He has deadly range on a silky-smooth jumpshot, can make plays off the dribble, explodes to the rim with the slightest separation, and finishes with thunderous authority. Oubre is versatile enough to legitimately guard three positions on defense, and has shown a knack for rebounding in traffic. The kid is a moving pogo stick with unreal shooting ability and a mean streak; when Oubre is clicking, he has the makings of, well, a future pro.
Oubre grew up in New Orleans’ Third Ward, but the wrath of Hurricane Katrina destroyed any semblance of a life there. Kelly’s father, Kelly Sr., moved west with his son, settling in Houston, TX. And after a number of successful years, this fall Kelly will continue his development even further west, at Las Vegas’ Findlay Prep.
While the lack of media recognition has kept Oubre out of the headlines and highlight reels, college coaches have coveted Kelly since he was a freshman at Bush (TX) High School, when he was playing alongside current Texas sophomore Cameron Ridley. The number of scholarship offers are infinite—Kansas, Louisville, UConn, Arizona, Baylor, Texas, UCLA, Memphis, Florida and Georgetown, among others—and for good reasons.
This spring, though, Kelly’s under-the-radar buzz reached it’s boiling point and transcended its way into the mainstream recruiting world. Oubre’s Houston Hoops AAU team is tied for the best record in the Nike EYBL, where Kelly is averaging 16.1 points and 6.8 rebounds so far this season. Oubre carried the momentum into the NBPA Top 100 camp earlier this month, where he led all players in scoring with 13.8 ppg, and received All-Star honors.
Rewind even further, though, and the trend continues. This past season, Oubre led Bush to not one, not two, but three victories over rival Travis High School, a squad led by Kentucky-bound twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison. Kelly Oubre may finally be breaking into the scene, but trust he’s been lurking behind the curtain for quite some time. The young man can flat-out play, and I think he could very well emerge as one of the best three or four players in his class.
SLAMonline recently caught up with Oubre to discuss his development, approach to the game, college recruitment and more.
SLAM: What’s up, Kelly? How’s everything going?
Kelly Oubre: Hey man, everything is going good. Just trying to get some rest before the Kevin Durant skills camp later this week.
SLAM: You were the leading scorer at the Top 100 camp—how was that experience?
KO: It was a great experience. A lot of great players were at the camp; there was everybody you’ve heard about or played against, and we all got a chance to match-up our talents and kind of see where we stack up.
SLAM: Did you approach it as “having a good time”, or was everyone there strictly to compete?
KO: We were competing the entire time, but like in-between lunch and when we had breaks, people would stay in the gym and have dunk contests, 3-point shoot-outs and things like that.
SLAM: Is there one aspect of your game that you’re working on this summer?
KO: I’m working on bringing the ball up the court, getting into more of a point guard role. I’m trying to be a complete player, and do whatever my coach needs me to do, so I’m trying to equip myself to play point guard, in addition to shooting guard and small forward. Just trying to make sure my game doesn’t have any borders right now.
SLAM: Why? Are you getting time at point guard in AAU?
KO: Yeah, well, we don’t have a specific point guard on our team. Me, Justin [Jackson] and Justise [Winslow] get the ball and push it, so if I have a tight handle, when I get the ball off a rebound I can just go.
SLAM: Speaking of Justise and Justin, how is it playing with those guys? On the surface your guys’ physical makeup sometimes overlaps, so one would speculate it might be tough for everyone to fully operate.
KO: Playing with them is great. We’ve been playing with each other for two years now, and we go hard in practice and always feed off each other. We’re all getting better, and winning games in the EYBL, so it’s all working out well.
SLAM: Talk to me about your transfer to Findlay Prep. Are you excited?
KO: I’m very excited. Findlay gets a lot of exposure, playing on ESPN and stuff like that. It’s tough to leave Bush [High School], but I know going to Findlay will definitely improve my game and prepare me for college.
SLAM: What position will you play at Findlay?
KO: Either the 2 or the 3.
SLAM: You’ve been heavily recruited in terms of the number of offers you’ve received, but on a national level, you’re not necessarily a “well-known” recruit. Do you pay attention to any of that stuff—rankings, articles, public recognition?
KO: I don’t put much weight on it, but I look at the rankings as motivation to improve my game. I know I have room for improvement, and I have a lot of room to turn heads and prove people wrong. So all that stuff just adds fuel to my fire.
SLAM: Do you feel like you have something to prove, or play with a chip on your shoulder, just because of how overlooked you were at one point?
KO: I mean, of course; I don’t want to necessarily prove anything, but I just want to show everybody that, you know, “This kid is the real deal” or “This kid can contribute, and has the potential to be great one day.”
SLAM: How would you describe your game?
KO: I like to feed off my offense. I like to score and get buckets, but I like to rebound and play defense, too. So when I do those things, I’m an all-around player who’s fun to watch.
SLAM: What would you say your biggest strength is?
KO: I would still say my jumper. I can shoot in a variety of different ways.
SLAM: What positions do you guard on defense?
KO: I like to guard all perimeter and wing positions.
SLAM: What about the biggest thing you need to improve on right now?
KO: Like I said, my point guard skills and my handle.
SLAM: How’s your recruitment going? I can only imagine how hectic it’s been.
KO: It’s going real well. After the next live period, I’m going to sit down with my family and really talk about where I can see myself playing.
SLAM: What’s the ideal school for Kelly Oubre?
KO: An uptempo style of play, and a coaching staff that you can become real close with. I want a coach who will help me reach my goals and continue to get better everyday.
SLAM: Do you have any visits scheduled?
KO: I don’t…not right now.
SLAM: Which schools would you say are recruiting you the hardest right now?
KO: I’d probably say Louisville and UConn. A lot of schools are recruiting me hard, and my options are still wide open, but those two are coming pretty hard.
SLAM: What are some of your goals for next year?
KO: Long term, I want to be a McDonald’s All-American for sure, and also win a National Championship. Short term, though, there’s no time to stop working; I’ll stay in the gym and keep getting better everyday.