The education of Kelly Oubre started when a confused 9-year-old packed everything he knew into his father's car with one of the biggest storms in American history barreling down on their native New Orleans. Oubre swears he didn't know what a hurricane was as his dad drove west toward Texas, but the wrath of Katrina took them to some places he'll never forget.
"Living in a Motel 6 with dead cockroaches all over the floor," Oubre said, thinking back to his youth. "Seeing my dad struggle, it was tough for me."
The Oubre men eventually landed in Houston, where the potential lottery pick in the 2015 NBA Draft first started his rise up the basketball world. Over the course of one year, Oubre went from a player ranked No. 56 in his class by Rivals to a McDonald's All-American, a consensus top-10 recruit and a Kanas commit set to fill an Andrew Wiggins-sized hole on the wing for Bill Self.
It wasn't until late in his high school career that Oubre realized he was blessed with a physical advantage that would one day help make him a lot of money.
"Honestly, until my senior year when I was doing the McDonald's All-American measurements, I didn't know my arms were that long," he said at the Chicago predraft camp. "I didn't know it could be so beneficial for me."
NBA teams look at Oubre and see a 7'2 wingspan packed into a 6'7 frame. They see the type of athleticism that could one day win a dunk contest and the type of shooting stroke that could one day win the three-point shootout. So why do some people believe Oubre is one of the riskiest players in the 2015 draft?
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Bill Self had it all planned out. Most programs would be decimated by the loss of two top draft picks in the same year, but when Wiggins and Joel Embiid left Kansas after one season to join the NBA, Self already had their successors lined up. Kelly Oubre would be on the wing and Cliff Alexander would be in the front court. The Jayhawks, winners of 10 straight Big 12 titles, figured to keep rolling.
Oubre and Alexander were both top-10 recruits entering college, but only Oubre looked like a potential lottery pick with an NBA-ready combination of length, athleticism and shooting ability. He wasn't as hyped as Wiggins coming out of high school, but he seemed like the next best thing. It was easy to assume he'd slide right into Wiggins' old position on the wing and follow a similar one-and-done route to the NBA.
All of it could happen eventually, but not before Oubre found himself taking a divergent path to get there. There was a point in the season when Oubre was No. 5 on DraftExpress' big board, but No. 9 on Kansas in minutes per game. For the first nine games of his career, he only saw the floor for 91 minutes.
"When I was sitting on the bench, it was because my own doing," Oubre said at the NBA Draft Combine. "It wasn't because someone was slighting me or had hated toward me. Coach Self was just trying to let me know my defense was my offense. I can't just be a one-way player. Once that message got across to me, the sky was the limit. I took off."
Oubre's opportunity finally arrived on Dec. 20 with a little unintended help from teammate Brannen Greene. When Greene showed up late for a weight lifting session before a game against Lafayette, Self inserted Oubre into the lineup. He proceeded to finish with 23 points and 10 rebounds on 9 of 15 shooting with four three-pointers. He wouldn't give his starting spot up the rest of the year.
Kansas would eventually capture its 11th consecutive regular-season conference title in one of the deepest and toughest leagues in the country. But while Oubre had some big games during the season -- like 19 and nine in a win over a talented Oklahoma team and 18 points on nine shots against a nasty Baylor squad -- the Jayhawks never seemed to belong to Oubre the way they did Wiggins a year before.
It was because the team Oubre played on had more experience, more depth and more scoring options. It was also because Oubre, for all of his talent, constantly seemed to be fighting a battle against both himself and his coach whenever he was on the court.
Get to know a little bit about Kelly Oubre and it's obvious nothing has ever come easy for him.
Offensively, Oubre has a high release on his jump shot that's almost impossible to block due to his length. He seems disappointed he only shot a respectable 36 percent from deep in college, especially after dropping in 6 of 7 threes in a high-profile matchup with Stanley Johnson at Adidas Nations going into his year at Kansas. He's been working to make sure his form and range are up to NBA standards.
"I know I can shoot," Oubre said. "I've tweaked a lot of things on my shot. The drop angle on my shot is something I've tweaked by getting the ball to my shooting pocket and going straight up and straight down. I've researched people like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The drop angle on their shot gives them a high-percentage chance of making it. I've watched film and adjusted things like that."
The tools are there for Oubre. After everything he and his family went through, it seems like he has the drive to turn into a quality player, as well. Still only 19 years old, he has time on his side, too.
It might not come together right away, but a franchise that's patient with Oubre could one day find the exact type of wing NBA teams covet. So far, he's always been worth the wait.