LAWRENCE, Kansas — Kansas swingman Kelly Oubre Jr. announced on Wednesday (Thursday, Manila time) he is leaving for the NBA draft, skipping his final three seasons of eligibility after an up-and-down freshman year.
Oubre revealed his intentions in a statement released by the school.
"It's always been a dream to play in the NBA," he said. "This is an opportunity to play against the best in the world and expand my game."
The 6-foot-7 Oubre started 27 games this past season, helping the Jayhawks win their 11th straight Big 12 title. He averaged 9.3 points and five rebounds, and showcased his potential when he poured in 25 points in a victory over TCU in the Big 12 Tournament.
His decision to leave for the NBA is based more on potential than productivity. He scored three points on 1-for-3 shooting in a loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 title game, then had just nine points in in a loss to Wichita State in the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.
But with impressive athleticism, stifling defense and a deft outside touch, Oubre left a strong impression with NBA scouts who came through Lawrence last season.
"This should come as really no surprise to anybody that has followed us," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "Kelly came in being well thought of by NBA personnel and certainly, nothing has changed in that regard. In the time he was here he's been a great ambassador, a great teammate and obviously a very talented player."
Oubre, who is expected to be among the first 20 players chosen in the June draft, said he spoke with several former Kansas players before making his decision. Among them was Joel Embiid, who was chosen third overall last year — two spots behind Jayhawks teammate Andrew Wiggins.
"JoJo said he knows what I am going through and he told me his process and some of the things he went through," Oubre said. "It's definitely been a hard and tough decision."
Oubre is the first player to announce he is leaving Kansas, but he may not be the last.
Fellow freshman Cliff Alexander's future remains in question after he was forced to miss the final few weeks of the season due to an investigation into improper benefits. Leading scorer Perry Ellis could also opt to skip his senior season, though few mock drafts have him rated highly.
Kansas has already signed five-star power forward Carlton Bragg, and Self has met with 7-foot center Mike Thorn Jr., who is transferring from Charlotte. The Jayhawks are also deeply invested in Jaylen Brown and Malik Newman, two of the top uncommitted recruits in the country.
"On the surface this presents a void on our perimeter from last year," Self said, "but this is something we have known could happen for several months and we are prepared for it."