Life hasn’t gone quite as expected for Kelly Oubre. There have been ups and downs, a number of moves, and a freshman season at Kansas that wasn’t what anyone thought it would be. Still, less than a month away from the NBA Draft, the 19-year-old is on the cusp of being a millionaire and achieving his dream of reaching the NBA.
A native of New Orleans, Kelly’s family was uprouted during the massive evacuations that took place during Hurricane Katrina. He was running with New Orleans Elite on the AAU circuit, but like many families in NOLA, Kelly rolled to the Houston area with his Pops following the disaster. Ultimately settling at Bush High School, he started to become the serious prospect that he is today.
It was in Fort Bend that I first got a glimpse of Oubre myself as a sophomore. You could see that he was oozing with talent, but that talent didn’t always mirror his productivity. There were times in which he settled for threes too often, but he really started to turn the corner during his junior go-around. He led the Fort Bend area in scoring and then made the move to national power Findlay Prep. By the time that his high school career ended, he was a top 10 player in the class and expected to be one of college basketball’s new freshmen faces. Things didn’t go quite as planned in Lawrence, though.
Posting averages of nine points and five rebounds per night, Oubre didn’t stand out statistically in the Big 12, much less amongst NBA Draft prospects. While there were lapses in both the effort and production department, the freshman didn’t have the same leash as many of his other one-and-done counterparts. He got things going towards the end of his debut campaign with five straight games in double-digits, only to end his career with four consecutive games in single-figures in the scoring column.
“Every GM and scout that saw him during the season told me that I needed to get with Oubre because he was lazy and inconsistent,” admitted Oubre’s trainer Drew Hanlen. “We’re trying to do the same thing with we did with Andrew Wiggins and teach him how to work to capitalize on his upside. He’s been great to work with since day one. I think a lot of the criticism that he has gotten has motivated him to show the player he is.”
Working out with Hanlen at the BDA Sports pro day, it was easy to see why Oubre is in the lottery mix despite his pedestrian averages in college. He shot the ball effortlessly from the NBA three-point line and while his percentages weren’t that of an immediate sharpshooter in the League, the effortless way that he was able to get to the ball to the rim leads you to believe that with continued reps, he’ll be just fine. Still a work in progress, Kelly’s jumper was one of the focal points that Hanlen set out in their pre-draft training.
“We’ve been doing a lot of on ball work to use his length to disrupt ball-handlers. Number two is that we changed his shooting mechanics. He was a big twister, so we’ve changed things to get him more balanced and have changed his release point to develop a more consistent shot,” he explained as to what they have been working on the most. “Number three is working on adding live ball moves so he can feel more comfortable on attacking from the wings. Number four is making sure that he can finish at the rim with both hands.”
The latter two on that list were areas of concern by some NBA scouts that we spoke to in attendance. However, once Oubre got to the rim, he showed the ability to finish the way that most NBA guys dream of. His effortless bounce got him well over the rim and it was almost like you were watching a video game at times with the way that he was able to explode so easily. There were still questions about his ability to go right and create off of the dribble, but it was clear that he had made some serious strides between his last game as a Jayhawk and this workout in front of over 150 NBA executives.
With Kelly Oubre, it’s clear that you’re drafting a player whose best days of basketball certainly lay ahead of him. If you want someone to come in and start for a playoff team next year, he may not be your guy. But if you want someone with just as much potential as top five picks towards the middle of the Draft, look no farther.
“There aren’t many two way players in the league anymore. His ability to defend right away and his upside offensively separate him from a lot of the other players in the Draft,” Hanlen said. “If you do a re-draft three years from now, he’ll be a top five pick.”
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