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Indiana basketball sophomore center Kel’el Ware named one of the top NBA Draft prospects that returned to college



The Indiana basketball season is right around the corner and this current version of the Hoosiers is a young, overall inexperienced team that is full of untapped potential with guys like CJ Gunn, Kaleb Banks, Mackenzie Mgbako and Gabe Cupps expected to play important roles for Mike Woodson’s program this year.

When looking at the younger guys on this roster, arguably the most important one of them of them all is second year center, Kel’el Ware, who comes into Indiana after transferring from Oregon. He has the difficult challenge to be the one to replace all-time Hoosier great Trayce Jackson-Davis.

During his freshman season at Oregon, the five-star center did not progress the way that he and many others thought he would. Things just did not click for all parties involved as he only averaged just 6.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game a year ago.

After expecting to be you typical ‘one-and-done’ player and head to the NBA after only one season in college, due to the many questions about his motor, passion for the game and the lack of dominant performances you would expect from a player with his elite skillset, Ware fell off many draft boards as his freshman campaign came to an end at Oregon.

A return to college and a change of scenery was needed for Ware, without question. When the opportunity to come to Indiana and potentially get the same development that Mike Woodson gave to Trayce Jackson-Davis was almost a no-brainer move for the former McDonald’s All-American.

While he was a NBA prospect a year ago, and still is, Ware now returns as one of the the top NBA Draft prospects that returned to college this upcoming season.

“The flashes with Kel’el Ware are impressive. He has excellent size, with good length and athletic fluidity. His shot-blocking is his take-home skill. He has natural timing and length and is able to get the ball at its peak with both hands, straight on or from the weak side,” said On3 Senior National Recruiting Analyst Jamie Shaw. “Ware has touch; he knocked down 15 threes last season and shot 71.4 percent from the free-throw line. His motor is going to be the question. He has the upside to protect the rim, stretch the floor, and finish around the basket, an interesting archetype for the NBA. Will Mike Woodson be able to get it out of him consistently?”

Related: Indiana Basketball Newcomer Focus: Sophomore center Kel’el Ware

When Ware entered the portal, Mike Woodson, the media and pretty much anyone that followed collage basketball closely knew what the word on the street was about Kel’el Ware. However, Mike Woodson and Indiana basketball has a desperate void to fill in the frontcourt, while also needing a more modern day, versatile big in order to run the system he wanted to as the head coach of the Hoosiers.

“Well, when I recruited that young man I told him, you cannot go back and get what happened the year before. You can’t,” Woodson said at Indiana basketball media day on Wednesday. “The word is out; they knocked you and said, hey, you’re lazy, you don’t work hard, and if you make a commitment to me, that’s got to change.”

A lot of eyes from many outlets are going to be on Ware next season. He knows what he needs to prove if he wants to make it to the NBA level. If he can improve his motor while also displaying his talented skillset, he and Indiana are going to benefit from it tremendously this season.

“Just to prove everyone was wrong. Show everyone I have a motor and keep it going on the court,” Ware said last week. “People say I’m lazy, just wanna show them I’m not lazy.

“Their (Indiana basketball) win now mentality is coming on to me now. I’m getting used to everything and enjoying it … I can give more.”

SEE ALSO: While motor is in question, skill is not. How Mike Woodson can unlock potential of Kel’el Ware for Indiana basketball

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Kyler Staley is a Basketball Recruiting Analyst for Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Kyler has been in the basketball recruiting industry since 2019 and is a credentialed media member. He has covered Indiana since 2021 while continuing to also work for Prep Hoops Indiana. He has previously worked for Rivals.