Back at the 2011 Peach Jam, Kelly Oubre was one of the most impressive rising sophomores to compete in the 16-under division. The slender left-hander displayed a feathery shooting touch and good size for the wing.
But in 2012, he faltered. It's not that Oubre played poorly, he simply didn't appear to be on a par with the best players in the 2014 class. He debuted in Scout.com rankings at No. 66, a strong assessment for sure but not a number that necessarily suggests greatness.
That said, he didn't lack for high-major attention. Playing for New Orleans Elite at the Adidas Invitational, he listed Connecticut as a favorite along with LSU, Alabama, Georgetown, Arizona, Texas and Texas A&M.
A huge junior season changed the tenor of his recruitment. Oubre became an ace scorer against top competition and grew his reputation from the inside-out. He rejoined the Houston Hoops to tour the EYBL circuit, and he initiated his national surge this past April.
Oubre's improved physique and confidence stood out most. He always was skilled, but a more assertive and rugged player emerged during the spring. He continued his outstanding play in June, showcasing big-time scoring ability at the prestigious NBPA Top 100 Camp.
He performed so well that he created a dilemma for scouts: Who's actually the Hoops' best prospect?
On the surface that doesn't mean much, but one must consider the context. The Hoops also featured top-10 prospects Justin Jackson and Justise Winslow, so a kid ranked in the 60s catapulting into that range obviously made a massive impression.
Oubre is announcing his college choice on October 8th. Kansas is the only school he visited officially. Kentucky was the other main school involved.
Slinky southpaws can be highly problematic for defenses, and Oubre is a classical scorer. He's a quick and increasingly aggressive slasher who excels at the jumpstop that leads into a tomahawk slam. He's especially fond of baseline drives, and his ability to get above defenders results in numerous fouls along with and-ones.
He's also a pretty good shooter. Not great, but pretty good. There's nothing at all wrong with Oubre's shot; like a lot of southpaws, for whatever reason isn't as consistent as some others. But he now knocks down mid-range shots off the dribble and has become a weapon moving without the ball and firing in threes from the wings.
His leaping ability has improved significantly, and he's able to climb the offensive glass for putbacks and tip-dunks. Along with that, he's an ace finisher in transition.
Defense is one of the areas Oubre excelled first, and he hasn't lost that dimension even while his offense has improved. His length, athleticism and burgeoning, lean strength make him a very difficult guy to score against. And the fact that he wants to be stout defensively counts for as much as anything else.
He definitely could use a tighter dribble. Oubre handles fine for the college wing forward spot, but what happens if he ultimately moves to shooting guard in the NBA? He possesses dribble moves but must improve versus pressure.
Oubre is an elite basketball player by any definition. Though not as polished as Jackson or as versatile offensively as Winslow, he may be the most explosive of the three.
You also have to like that he has taken such a profound leap late in his career. Catching a player on an upward trajectory always is desirable, and few prep seniors have shown more improvement over the past 12 months. If we're correct and he's truly a top-15 prospect based on current play, who knows where he might end up if he hasn't yet stopped maturing physically and athletically.
Food for thought, and with proper development he should be able to make a career out of the game. Few of his peers will enter college next fall with such a promising outlook.