Kelly Oubre comes to Lawrence as the 6th ranked recruit in the Class of 2014 (all rankings in this article come from Rivals.) Andrew Wiggins, of course, was ranked #1 last year, and arrived on campus with not a small amount of hullabaloo.
And with that hullabaloo, naturally, came high expectations. In some circles, Wiggins' freshman season has been classified as a major disappointment. I do not belong to those circles. Now, did Wiggins average 25 and 11, like Kevin Durant did during his lone season at Texas? No. Did he put the team on his back and carry them through the NCAA Tournament, like Carmelo Anthony at Syracuse? No. (Other ballyhooed one-and-dones who either didn't make the NCAA tournament, or didn't make it out of the first weekend: Durant, Michael Beasley, OJ Mayo, Eric Gordon, Chris Bosh. Just sayin'.) But the notion that Wiggins was a disappointment last season is misguided at best-- borderline absurd at worst.
Hence the topic of this post. What constitutes a reasonable expectation for Kelly Oubre this season? Where should the bar be set? For a comparison, I dailed up the freshman seasons of Brandon Rush in 2005-06, Xavier Henry in 2009-10, and Wiggins last year.
(Side note: Originally, I had included Ben McLemore in this comparison. I decided to remove him, since he wasn't a true freshman, due to his academic ineligibility in 2011-2012. If you give a 17 or 18-year-old kid an extra calendar year to hit the weights, and an extra semester to practice and learn the offensive system, it would do wonders for every one of them. It showed in McLemore's case, as he went from a projected borderline first-round pick to a one-and-done, top-10 pick. So for the purposes of this exercise, he's out.)
Here's a brief statistical breakdown of the freshman seasons of Rush, Henry, and Wiggins:
If we average those seasons together, and create a player named Bravier Riggins (dibs on Bravier for my future kid's name), here's the line we come up with, one that could be used as a serviceable prediction for Oubre:
Now obviously there are caveats here; mathematically speaking, this exercise is far from flawless. Both Rush and Wiggins were the featured player on freshman-laden teams following a roster overhaul, while Xavier was walking into a squad led by Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich-- two players who commanded quite a bit of attention. Oubre's situation is a little bit of both. The 2014-15 Jayhawks have a very young core, and one would assume that the ball will flow through Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis a majority of the time. Not to mention, between Brannen Greene, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, and others, Oubre has plenty of competition for minutes on the wing.
As far as taking an exact average of the three players and making that the projection for Oubre.... I was going to assign a multiplier to each player sampled, in order to more accurately reflect their class ranking. However, if you allow for the fact that not all recruiting classes are created equal, then Oubre at #6 is already almost a perfect amalgamation of Rush, Henry, and Wiggins-- #13, #8, and #1, respectively. So while it's not perfect, it'll do for a rough projection. For the record, I don't think Oubre gets 30 minutes per game, I'd be pleasantly surprised if he put up almost 15 points a game, and I would tend to think his rebounding would trend closer to Xavier's numbers than to Rush or Wiggins.... but overall I think Oubre comes pretty close to this stat line.
So there is one man's humble projection for one of our top recruits, hopefully reminding some people that not all highly-touted freshmen have to put up huge numbers for their season to be called a success. Now, when Oubre averages a 29-14-8 and shoots 65%, while leading KU to a national championship after defeating Missouri by 74 points in the title game.... feel free to come back and tell me how wrong I was.