Charlotte Hornets

NBA draft: Kansas’ Kelly Oubre ‘100 percent strong’ on call to turn pro

Kansas freshman Kelly Oubre Jr. has a 7-foot-2 wingspan and a decent lefty jump shot. A complete resume? Not so much.

Oubre turned pro after one up-and-down season with the Jayhawks. Promoted as Andrew Wiggins’ replacement, the 6-7 Oubre had modest statistics his one college season: 9.3 points per game and five rebounds per game. He shot 44 percent from the field and 36 percent from the 3-point line.

Despite that, he made himself available for the June 25 NBA draft. Thursday he worked out for the Charlotte Hornets, his first NBA audition.

Oubre, 19, expressed confidence Thursday that, despite his limited experience, he did the right thing going to the NBA.

“I feel 100 percent strong going into this, and I know I’m going to make a great career out of it,” Oubre said. “I have a lot of learning to do, and I’m willing to focus on basketball solely and dedicate myself to the game.

“I don’t have any distractions. So the game of basketball is everything to me, and I’m committing the time to be the best player I can be.”

That theme – balancing basketball with schoolwork – has been common leading up to this draft. Former North Carolina player J.P. Tokoto said he gave up his remaining college eligibility because he didn’t think he could become a good enough shooter for the NBA while juggling basketball and classes. Louisville power forward Montrezl Harrell said he improved his jump shot dramatically this spring once classes ended and he could work extensively with a basketball trainer.

One of the things Oubre likely will need to do is bulk up. He weighs a lean 200 pounds.

But Oubre said he believes he’s better suited for the NBA game, where better long-range shooting often opens more driving lanes than Oubre would see in college.

“I feel like my game is unique,” Oubre said. “I can thrive at this level because of the open space, and my length can cause trouble on the defensive end.”

A 7-2 wingspan on a 6-7 frame does offer significant potential for Oubre to disrupt opposing teams’ passing lanes. His challenge will be more developing his ball-handling and passing. He averaged just under an assist per game at Kansas.

Oubre auditioned for the Hornets by himself Thursday, as opposed to the six-player workouts the team usually runs. Oubre said he didn’t request that; it’s just how it worked out.

“I was informed I was going to be the only one on the court, and I didn’t argue,” Oubre said. “All eyes (were) on me. That felt good; I got to show out a little bit.”

The Hornets have the ninth pick in the first round. Oubre also has workouts scheduled with the Denver Nuggets (choosing seventh), Detroit Pistons (eighth) and Utah Jazz (12th).

“This is a franchise I could thrive at,” Oubre said of the Hornets, “have an immediate impact, push my teammates.”

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell

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