Kel'El Ware commits to Indiana - here's what it means for the Hoosiers
On Monday, one of the most high-profile players in the transfer portal came off the board - when Kel'El Ware, a 6'11 center who spent last season at Oregon committed to Indiana.
It was a massive pick-up for Indiana, giving them a key building block for the 2023-2024 season.
Here's what you need to know about the commit:
Who is Kel'El Ware:
Ware was one of the most high-profile players in the portal this off-season, in large part because of a high school pedigree that was basically unmatched by any player who elected to transfer this spring.
Originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, Ware was a Top 10 prospect in the high school class of 2022, ranked ahead of the likes of Keyonte George, Cam Whitmore and others in last year's class. He was also a projected lottery pick in most preseason mock drafts heading into the season as well.
Unfortunately for him, his year at Oregon was a perfect storm of player who "wasn't quite ready" being put into a bad situation to begin with. The Ducks featured a loaded in the frontcourt with veterans N'Faly Dante and Nathan Bittle and there wasn't that much wiggle room for Ware to play and develop on the court.
Despite the loaded frontcourt situation, Ware made the most of his minutes, averaging 6.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks all despite playing under 16 minutes per game.
He hit the portal looking for a bigger role, and should have it at Indiana.
What does he do well?
For a guy his size, Ware is hyper athletic with plenty of natural gifts. It's what made him a five-star prospect and a projected lottery pick: You just don't find that many guys that tall, who are that coordinated, with that much upside.
Considering the lack of playing time, his offensive game is relatively advanced (he actually attempted 55 three-pointers this season, making 27 percent), but really defensively is where he should be able to shine.
That 1.3 blocks per game is impressive for anyone, but especially impressive considering his limited playing time. If you extrapolate it out to 40 minutes, Ware averaged close to 3.5 blocks per contest.
What does he need to work on?
The big thing that has plagued Ware dating back to his high school days is his motor: He has all the natural skills in the world, but it's mostly about unlocking them consistently.
Just looking at his game log this season bares that out.
He went for just two points and three rebounds in an early November loss to Houston, then immediately followed it up with 18 points and nine rebounds against eventual champion UConn a few days later. Eleven points in an NIT win over Central Florida, then just two in a season-ending loss a few days later.
Consistency will be the name of the game at his next stop.
How does he fit at Indiana and what does it mean for the Hoosiers?
Put simply, this seems like just about a perfect match for player and school.
From Ware's perspective, if he's serious about playing in the NBA, well, there's literally no one better to play for than Mike Woodson, a guy who coached decades in that league. He knows what it takes to get there, and let's hope that Ware taps into his wealth of knowledge and experience at the highest level. It's also a near perfect fit from a depth chart perspective, as there is no crowded frontcourt like at his last stop. With Trayce Jackson-Davis going pro and Race Thompson out of eligibility, he'll have as much playing time as he wants.
As for the Indiana perspective, well, they just got a high-upside, former five-star and potential NBA player that was clearly in demand. His home state of Arkansas recruited him hard, and reigning SEC champ Alabama desperately wanted him in for a visit this weekend, a visit which he ultimately declined.
Just getting Ware to campus, without even seeing Tuscaloosa is a big win for Woodson, Indiana, and - to be blunt - the Big Ten as a whole.
Finally, he is another nice building block for what is a continually rebuilding team this off-season. The expectation is that Xavier Johnson will get a waiver to play next season, and Trey Galloway and Malik Reneau will be back as well.
But outside of three, there isn't much there, and now Indiana adds a talent unlike any they've had since Woodson arrived, and frankly, unlike any in the Big Ten.
Again, this is a near perfect fit: If Ware can't tap into the full array of his talents under Woodson, he might never.
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