Kelly Oubre

Then freshman guard Kelly Oubre Jr. holds up the piece of the net that he cut after Kansas defeated West Virginia at Allen Fieldhouse on March 4.

“Brothers.”

In the middle of a hectic NBA draft media day, Kansas one-and-done Kelly Oubre Jr. made it a point to mention the relationship and brotherhood he shared with his teammates at the University of Kansas.

Throughout the interview session, Oubre was asked a variety questions, ranging from the topic of how well he knows the triangle offense to how he thinks he’ll react to stepping on the court for the first time, but it was the topic of the Jayhawks that allowed him to show a bit more of his personality.

After all, like any well-prepared prospect, Oubre gave the “right” answers to just about every typical NBA question. He talked about fitting in wherever he was drafted and playing team basketball rather than focusing on himself; he talked about playing with an edge and staying hungry for success.

Oubre said all the right things at the right times, but before the session finished, I knew I had one more thing I wanted to know. So as the media availability started to wrap up, I walked back over to Oubre and asked him a simple question.

“Do you want to talk about the Jayhawks for a minute?”

As a reporter, it was my job was to see if I could get a quote from Oubre about what he thought of the team. I expected to engage in a brief conversation, and maybe get Oubre talking about the team’s chances in the Big 12 or NCAA Tournament.

Instantly, Oubre cracked a smile.

“Yeah, yeah yeah,” Oubre said, showing a little excitement in his voice. “We got that win yesterday [against Canada]. First win of the year.”

I followed up and asked him about Frank Mason III and how he played, and that was all it took. Oubre was off to the races.

“I feel like Frank would be great in the NBA, honestly,” he said. “You can see it in how Frank is relentless. He can’t be stopped because he has that mindset where he’s coming from nothing… He’s going to be the key to our season.”

Oubre then joked about Mason’s ability to get to the free throw line, and even threw up his arms to simulate how Mason is able to draw fouls. At that point, there was no stopping Oubre. The conversation just continued to flow, from Oubre’s relationship with Mason to his relationship with the team.

“We’re all brothers. We’re brothers for life,” he said. “Even though we were only together for a year, we created a bond that was something special. It will never go away.”

And to take even one step further than that, Oubre said he continued to keep in touch with former teammates all the time. He said he had recently talked to Christian Garrett and Cliff Alexander, both of whom were members of last year’s team, and he went out of his way to say he thought Alexander was going to be an impact maker in the NBA, almost taking on the role of his wingman in a way.

Obviously, it wasn’t entirely surprising to hear Oubre speak so positively of the team, but considering the adversity he faced throughout the season, one might have expected a conversation about the Jayhawks to go a different way.  

I don’t think anyone would’ve blamed Oubre for just trying to get through the questions as quickly as possible. I also don’t think anyone would have blamed him for talking about the difficult situation he was put in, and talking about how he wasn’t really at fault for what happened to his draft stock.

He still addressed those things, but he kept the focus on himself. He didn’t call out any teammates; he didn’t call out any coaches. Instead, he just talked about the roller coaster ride that was his 2014-15 season, and how he was going to use it to better himself moving forward.

“A lot of people lost faith in me, but I never lost faith in myself,” Oubre said. “A lot of people say I’m going to be a bust [and that] I’m not ready for the NBA. [They say] I should’ve stayed one more year. That’s all motivation for me. I don’t talk, I just work.”