The shoes were silver and dotted with sharp spikes, glistening in the Barclays Center lights. The shoes, of course, were the first thing you noticed.
Shortly before 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Kelly Oubre took his flashy shoe game and sauntered across the stage at the NBA Draft. He shook hands with commissioner Adam Silver, donned a hat with an Atlanta Hawks logo, and took his first steps as a professional basketball player.
As he stepped off the stage, he still did not know where he was headed. Word had already hit the Barclays Center floor in Brooklyn — the news that Oubre, the former Kansas small forward, was headed to the Washington Wizards in a draft-night trade. But that information had not yet reached Oubre.
“Whoever gets me is getting a jewel,” Oubre said in a televised interview, his status still in flux. “I feel like I’m a steal in this draft.”
That team, indeed, will be the Washington Wizards, who consummated the deal by reportedly sending the No. 19 pick and two future second-round picks to Atlanta.
“A lot of teams passed on me, but that’s fine,” Oubre said. “They made great picks. (There’s) a lot of great picks in this draft. But whoever winds up getting me, I’m definitely going to give them 110 percent effort.”
In a moment, Oubre went from a Hawks franchise that finished with the Eastern Conference’s best record last season to a Wizards team that appears to be on the rise. Led by a core of young guards, including John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards finished 46-36 last season and claimed a first-round playoff series before bowing out to Atlanta in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Wizards, too, might soon have room on the wing, in part because former Kansas star Paul Pierce, 37, is expected to test free agency before what could be his final NBA season.
“Hopefully Paul will still be there,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “And Paul and John Wall and Bradley Beal … and Drew Gooden can help mentor him, which would be really big.”
For Oubre, meanwhile, the night capped a dream set in motion nearly 10 years ago, on a lonely drive from New Orleans to Houston. The story is well documented by now, Oubre and his father loading up the family car and heading to Houston in the days before Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans. The Oubre men never moved back, and Oubre developed into one of the best high school basketball players in the country.
The results from one freshman season at Kansas were mixed. Oubre averaged 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds, earning honorable-mention All-Big 12 honors while starting on a Kansas team that piled up an 11th straight Big 12 title. But it was also a process, to use a word that Oubre became fond of during his time in Lawrence. He spent much of November on the bench, and he suffered from bouts of inconsistency, especially on the road.
That left some uncertainty in the air on Thursday night. Oubre, who traveled to New York for the draft, had an opportunity to give Kansas a lottery pick for the sixth straight year. He also came with some risk, ESPN television analyst Jay Bilas said. Oubre settled for No. 15, just one pick outside the lottery.
“If he really gets his motor revving a little bit higher… ” Bilas said following the selection. “I think he has learned how to work hard, but if he continues to do that, I really like Kelly Oubre at this spot.”
Oubre became the 19th Kansas player to be drafted during the Bill Self-era — and he remained the 19th player after former Jayhawk forward Cliff Alexander went undrafted. Oubre will now move forward with a sizable chip on his shoulder — and a sizable dollop of confidence as well.
“I was disappointed with one thing with Kelly,” Self said. “I was hoping that he would go in the lottery. But you know, he went one pick out of the lottery and he gets the chance to play on a really good team.”
In the weeks leading up to the draft, Oubre conceded that he could have benefited from a second season at Kansas. But he also believed his game can flourish in the open confines of the NBA. He’ll get that opportunity in Washington, playing alongside Wall, Beal and an emerging core.
“I’m ready to win a championship,” Oubre said. “And whatever team gets me, we’re winning a championship.”
To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @rustindodd.