Enjoy Oubre while you’ve got him, KU fans, because you’re not gonna have him for long
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Loaded questions are all kinds of fun, as long you’re not the poor sap standing on the wrong side of the barrel. Such as this one from a wiseapple of a scribe Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse after Perry Ellis celebrated crossing the 1,000-points-in-his-career barrier at Kansas:
So, Kelly Oubre, when are YOU going to reach 1,000 in a Jayhawk uniform?
To this, Oubre smiled. Then he froze a bit, pondering. Then he mumbled a sweet nothing under his breath.
Then he smiled again.
"Putting me on the hot seat there, man," said Kansas’ electric freshman wing guard after helping rally the No. 8 Jayhawks past Baylor 74-64. "I’m not saying anything."
The kid’s play said it all, of course, the way it has pretty much said it all since Christmas: Eighteen points, four treys, six rebounds, the dagger with 2:01 left that flipped a tense contest and a five-point game into another no-doubter for the home side.
"I just felt like somebody was going to come behind me," Oubre recalled after that shot pushed KU (21-4) to 6-0 at home in the Big 12 and 10-2 in the league overall. "I just felt like I had to have a quick release on that one, and I just (went with) my follow-through, and it went in."
Saturday was the ninth time in 16 games since Dec. 20 that the New Orleans native has dropped 10 points or more on some unsuspecting squad, the eighth game in 16 that saw him notch at least two treys in a tilt, and the 12th time in 16 that saw him snatch at least five rebounds. He’s 6-foot-7 with a reported 7-2 wingspan. He’s the Jayhawks’ best wing defender (92.0 points allowed per 100 opponent possessions, best among KU starters, according to Sports-Reference.com), and perhaps the best defender, period.
Also, according to our pals over at DraftExpress.com, he projects as the No. 9 player off the board in this summer’s NBA Draft — ahead of Texas’ Myles Turner, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky and Kentucky’s Devin Booker.
Again, loaded question.
The better this story gets, the shorter it feels.
And when the lottery beckons, kids, all bets are off.
"I mean, he’s the prototype of what you look for of a wing player in the NBA these days," Jonathan Givony, DraftExpress.com president and noted straight-shooter, told FOXSportsKansasCity.com when asked about Oubre.
"Just in terms of his size, his body, his length — everything comes easily to him. Put him on 2 (guards), put him on 3’s, he can guard 1’s (point guards), 4’s (power forwards). He’s probably their best center this year."
Landen Lucas (nine points, four rebounds against the Bears) might take exception to that last bit, but yeah. Point taken.
"Anyone who has just turned 19 years old is going to have room to improve, experience-wise," Givony continued. "He’s very left-hand dominant. And that’s something that I think people will pick up on more at the pro level, so he’s going to have to work on his right hand — and his ball-handling, also. He can do a better job of (creating) high-percentage shots and getting to the free-throw line, but he’s been pretty solid as a freshman."
"When you’re worried about doing the right thing, then you make your shots," Jayhawks coach Bill Self observed. "I talked to coach Jerry Sloan (Friday) about it, and he used the phrase, ‘ass-backward.’ Kids want to shoot good and then play good, but kids should want to play good and then shoot good. Then it’s easier to make shots, because you’re not focused on making shots.
"That’s the one thing with Kelly that I want to see consistency with, because he’s a good shooter, but that’s not who he is. He’s a junkyard dog. He can do a lot of things and when he’s worried about those things, it just seems more natural for him to jump up and make shots."
And with ex-Jayhawk stars such as Nick Collison and Joel Embiid among the assembled — the stars come out to Naismith Drive during NBA All-Star Weekend — things could hardly have started any worse. The Bears (18-7, 6-6) connected on five of their first seven from the floor and three of their first four from beyond the arc. Team Drew raced out to a 21-8 cushion with 12:26 left in the first half on a Taurean Price triple.
It grew to 26-14 before the hosts countered with three treys of their own over top of the Baylor zone, from Oubre, Wayne Selden and Oubre again, a right elbow shot that pulled the Jayhawks to within 26-23 with 7:06 left in the period.
And cue the crowd.
"I always like to say, ‘We’re not playing five on five,’" Oubre said of Allen Fieldhouse, neatly summing up his team’s psychological edge in Lawrence. "’We’re playing 16,000-and-some on five.’"
The hosts closed the gap on the score sheet, but not on the boards; Baylor outrebounded the Jayhawks 21-15 at the break while outscoring them 12-2 on second-chance opportunities, 5-0 off turnovers and 4-0 on fast-break chances.
Just imagine where they might’ve been without No. 12 there, in full flight, bailing their backsides out (10 first-half points, two first-half threes, four first-half rebounds).
"I’ve been working hard in the gym this week on my shot," Oubre said, "because I haven’t been hitting them as well lately. Pretty much, over time, I’ve been trying to get my confidence up. (Saturday), I was just feeling it from the arc, so I just kept shooting it."
Enjoy that feeling while you’ve got it, Lawrence. Oubre has collected 212 points with KU. Chances are, this March is probably only going to 300, and you’ve got three more home games left to watch the junkyard dog eat.