LAWRENCE — They left New Orleans on the day before the storm, packing up their things and heading west.
It was August 2005, and Kelly Oubre Sr. wasn’t sure what the future would bring. But he knew he had his son, a boy with a special gift. And he had a plan in his head. Someday, he thought, he wanted Kelly Jr. to be mature enough to make his own choices, wise enough to make his own plans.
So as Hurricane Katrina pounded their hometown, the Oubre men arrived in Houston. They had family back in New Orleans, where Kelly Jr. had grown up in the Third Ward. But for weeks they bunked in a hotel, waiting for New Orleans to return to normal.
“It was just me and my dad,” Oubre says. “It was a crazy process.”
But before the Oubre men could return home, Kelly Sr. began to fall for Texas. He saw opportunity there — a chance for his son to escape the crime and corruption back in New Orleans.
“I decided to stay,” says Kelly Sr., now a special-education teacher in Houston. “Because I knew my son would hopefully be in this position one day where he was able to make his own decisions.”
For both father and son, that day came on Tuesday, when Kelly Oubre Jr. announced his decision to play basketball at Kansas, a decision that came just four days after he finished his official visit to KU with a night at the Jayhawks’ annual “Late Night in the Phog.”
Oubre, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard from Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, picked Kansas after canceling an official visit to Kentucky scheduled for Oct. 18. For Oubre, a potential top-10 recruit in the 2014 class, an evening at “Late Night” in Allen Fieldhouse confirmed all he needed to know about Kansas.
“I never felt nothing like it in my life,” Oubre said. “I pretty much knew. That sealed the deal right there.”
For Oubre, though, the recruiting process was more than just choosing a place to go to school. If he chose the Jayhawks, it would be closer to joining a lifelong fraternity.
“The brotherhood,” Oubre said. “Even though some of those guys are for sure going one-and-done, they still treated me like I was royalty out there.”
“It was kind of the litmus for him,” Kelly Sr. added. “Would it be something that he wanted to be associated with for the rest of his life?”
For three years, the left-handed Oubre has been a steady riser on the national scene. He is currently rated as the nation’s No. 12 overall prospect, according to Rivals.com. But according to national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi, Oubre could make a push into the top 10 after his senior season at Findlay Prep (Oubre played his first three high school seasons in the Houston area).
“He’s a 6-foot-7 wing with deep range, a college-ready body and a pretty advanced offensive game,” Bossi said. “He can shoot from deep; he can score in the midrange; and he’s got the athleticism and physicality to score at the rim — so he’s a three-level scorer.”
For Self, the commitment continues a torrid run on the recruiting trail. Just last spring, he added No. 1 overall recruit Andrew Wiggins to an already deep 2013 class. Now he has a standout first piece for his 2014 class.
Last weekend, as Self and Oubre sat down to talk about the future, the coach laid out all the scenarios.
Self mentioned that Wiggins was likely off to the NBA after one year on campus, and Oubre could help fill that void. And if fellow freshman Wayne Selden is still here next season, then Oubre will have a solid running man to test him against in practice.
Maybe it’s because the Oubre men have always been planners, but Self’s honest delivery resonated.
“It’s a win-win all the way around,” Kelly Sr. said. “We don’t talk about one-and-done possibilities in my house, because I’m more concerned about maturity, longevity and development.”
During his official visit to Lawrence, Oubre also took in two Kansas practices, watching Self work with the Jayhawks’ freshmen. He had met both Wiggins and Selden during their time on the summer AAU circuits. And as both players glided down the floor, it was easy to picture himself joining the pack.
“There was no substitute for those guys,” Oubre said. “We just pretty much bonded.”