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Mike Woodson perfect match for Kel’el Ware: ‘If he swims, Indiana fans are going to be thrilled’



Kel'el Ware announced his commitment to Indiana earlier this week with Mike Woodson a perfect match for the untapped potential of the former five-star. (Kel'el Ware / Instagram)

Indiana landed one of the biggest transfer portal additions thus far this offseason when it received a commitment from 7-foot center Kel’el Ware. The former McDonald’s All-American played just one year at Oregon.

His numbers weren’t flashy, averaging just 6.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. And, eventually Ware fell out of the consistent rotation.

But, there is no doubt the talent that Indiana is getting.

After his commitment to Indiana, the biggest question mark became; will his motor and competitive drive get to where it needs to be in order to reach his potential? It’s a large question but one that could be unlocked with IU head coach Mike Woodson.

“Does this kid love basketball. Does he love to compete. His motor has alway been extremely spotty,” 247Sports national analyst Travis Branham said. “There is definitely a chance (to get that at Indiana). I’m still holding out hope and fairly optimistic he can turn this ship around. Mike Woodson clearly has had some success at Indiana with what he did with Trayce Jackson-Davis. Trayce Jackson-Davis did a phenomenal job in developing and was one of the best players in the country this year.

“He’s (Woodson) a challenging coach to play for and he’s not going to let Ware play with the bad habits he’s had for the last few years and rely on talent. It just doesn’t work anymore.”

Early in the season, Kel’el Ware was productive. He averaged 12.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in a four-game stretch in the Phil Knight Invitational against Houston, UConn, Michigan State and Villanova.

He scored in double-figures six times in the first two months of the season. In the final two months of the season, he had just two double-digit scoring outputs.

As Branham noted, most freshmen go through their ups and downs throughout their first year. That is and was no surprise in this scenario either. Now, it’s about how he bounces back.

“Kel’el Ware has faced that adversity this year. So now the question is how will he respond,” Branham said. “How he went through this decision making process, how he vetted the schools, making sure he is going to the right place, somewhere going to challenge him and also develop him and give him good opportunity. That leaves more room for me to be optimistic that he will turn this around. But again Mike Woodson is going to be challenging for him. So is he going to sink or swim. If he swims, Indiana fans are going to be thrilled what he can bring to the floor.”

Kel’el Ware was the No. 7 overall prospect in the 2022 class and a projected lottery pick just a few months ago.

“Honestly, in a year from now, if he does really rise to the occasion and raises his competitiveness and motor cause that’s what it’s all about. If he does all those tings, we’re looking at a top-5, top-10 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft,” Branham added.

SEE ALSO; With front court needs addressed, shooting becomes key focus for Indiana

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Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.