Like Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid before him, Kansas’ Kelly Oubre Jr. will be one-and-done.
Oubre, a 6-foot-7 small forward, announced his decision Wednesday morning to enter the NBA Draft, ending his college career after just one season at KU.
The formal announcement came via news release and YouTube video, with Oubre speaking into a camera about his time at Kansas and desire to play in the NBA.
“It’s always been a dream to play in the NBA,” Oubre said. “This is an opportunity to play against the best in the world and expand my game in hopes of someday becoming one of those great players.”
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Oubre, who is projected to be a first-round pick in this summer’s NBA Draft, appears to be making a safe decision, bypassing the opportunity to raise his professional stock during another season at Kansas and taking advantage of his current position as a likely first-round talent. Projected as a late lottery pick by both DraftExpress.com and ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford, Oubre is an appealing talent because of his size, length and skill-set.
“This should come as really no surprise to anybody that has followed us,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Kelly came in being well thought of by NBA personnel, and certainly nothing has changed in that regard. In the time he was here he’s been a great ambassador, a great teammate and, obviously, a very talented player.”
Oubre averaged 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds during his only college season. In recent weeks, Oubre consulted with Embiid about his own decision to leave Kansas after just one season. Oubre also confided in his father, Kelly Sr., who told The Star that his son is leaving Kansas in good academic standing and would like to complete his degree in the coming years.
“It’s been a great year,” Oubre said. “I’ve been blessed to be here at the University of Kansas. I was blessed to go through the things that I went through and I was blessed to play for coach (Self). He taught me a lot this year, the little things that will help out my game a lot.”
From a Kansas perspective, Oubre’s departure leaves a hole on the wing and a second open scholarship. The Jayhawks previously had just one scholarship remaining after the commitment of McDonald’s All-American forward Carlton Bragg. Freshman forward Cliff Alexander could also enter the NBA Draft, while junior forward Perry Ellis has monitored his draft stock in recent weeks.
Oubre will become the sixth KU freshman in the last six years to enter the NBA Draft. The trend, which began with Xavier Henry in 2010, has become more pronounced in recent years. Wiggins and Embiid were both top-three picks last year after spending one year at Kansas.
And with Wiggins gone, Oubre was expected to help fill the void.
Born and raised in New Orleans, Oubre relocated to the Houston area with his father after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He came to Kansas as a top-10 recruit, ranked No. 6 in the country in the class of 2014, according to Rivals.com.
He earned McDonald’s All-American honors during his senior season at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev., and picked the Jayhawks after also visiting Kentucky.
Still, his transition to college basketball took some time. He played just 8.2 minutes per game in Kansas’ first seven games, and he played just 18 total minutes in three games as the Jayhawks won the Orlando Classic in late November.
His breakthrough, perhaps, came on the road at Georgetown on Dec. 10. He played 16 minutes, scored seven points and grabbed five rebounds in a 75-70 victory, setting the stage for minutes to come.
Two games later, Oubre finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds in a home victory against Lafayette, and he spent the rest of the season in the starting lineup. Oubre averaged 10.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in conference play, helping the Jayhawks to an 11th straight Big 12 title. While his production waned on the road, he grew into the team’s third offensive option behind Ellis and Frank Mason.
He finished with a career-high 25 points against TCU in the Big 12 Tournament, but an enduring image was formed in the Jayhawks’ season-ending loss to Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament. Midway through the second half, Oubre found himself chasing a loose ball near midcourt with Wichita State freshman Zach Brown a step behind him. Brown blew past Oubre, controlled the ball and raced in for an uncontested dunk.
While Oubre was perhaps not a guaranteed one-and-done player like Wiggins, his future seemed to crystallize as he began to play better in conference play and move back into the lottery on projected draft boards. Even before the season ended, Self was bracing to lose Oubre to the draft.
“I’ll miss the different personalities in the locker room,” Oubre said on Wednesday. “We all jelled from the first time we were together. I’ll miss the coaches pushing us every day to be the best players we can be."
For the moment, the Jayhawks appear to have the depth at the wing position to help replace Oubre. Sophomore shooting guard Wayne Selden is expected to return, while freshman wing Svi Mykhailiuk is positioned to make a big leap entering his sophomore season. The Jayhawks will also return Mason and freshman point guard Devonte’ Graham, adding to the numbers at the guard position. The Jayhawks are also still recruiting Malik Newman and Jaylen Brown, two top-10 perimeter players in the 2015 class.
“On the surface this presents a void on our perimeter from last year,” Self said. “But this is something we have known could happen for several months and we are prepared for it. I’m real excited about our players returning.”