Kansas freshman Oubre declares for ’15 NBA Draft

Kelly Oubre was projected as a 2015 NBA lottery pick before he set foot in Lawrence, and his freshman campaign did little to sway that interest.

Denny Medley/Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kelly Oubre was always a rental. So in perhaps the least surprising declaration of NBA Declaration Week, Kansas’ gifted wing guard announced Wednesday that he’s forgoing his remaining collegiate eligibility for the professional ranks.

"I talked with guys who have been in this situation before me and they told me different things," Oubre, who averaged 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per contest, said in a university news release. "JoJo (Joel Embiid, the former KU center who declared for the draft after his freshman season) said he knows what I am going through and he told me his process and some of the things he went through. It’s definitely been a hard and tough decision and I’ve come to this conclusion."

Oubre — 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan — was projected as a 2015 NBA lottery pick before he set foot in Lawrence, and his freshman campaign did little to sway that interest. The Louisiana-born guard solidified his spot in the starting lineup after a 23-point performance against Lafayette at Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 20. Oubre averaged 10.5 points and 5.6 boards in 21 contests — including the postseason — against Big 12 competition.

DraftExpress.com on Wednesday projected Oubre as the 13th selection of the ’15 draft, to Phoenix.

KU coach Bill Self said via a university news release that Oubre plans to maintain his academic obligations through the semester and intends to return to Lawrence at some point to finish his degree.

"On the surface this presents a void on our perimeter from last year, but this is something we have known could happen for several months and we are prepared for it," Self continued. "I’m real excited about our players returning."

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Oubre’s departure was considered to be a foregone conclusion for weeks, but the NBA plans of at least two more Jayhawks remain in public limbo. Freshman forward Cliff Alexander was projected for months as a late first-round pick, at worst, but inconsistent play and an eligibility scrap with the NCAA that ended his season in late February have dropped the Chicago native’s stock. Junior forward Perry Ellis’ impressive February helped his pro outlook, but he projects as no higher than a second-round selection on most draft boards. DraftExpress.com’s latest two-round mock projected Alexander to be selected 31st, the top pick in Round 2, but didn’t list Ellis at all.

While the former is still expected to declare, the return of the latter would make the Jayhawks a prohibitive favorite — not that they aren’t anyway — to win a 12th straight Big 12 Conference regular-season title. The Division I record for consecutive league crowns is 13, held by UCLA (1967-79).

You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter at @SeanKeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com.