Indiana men’s basketball added a major piece from the transfer portal in Kel’el Ware, who committed to the Hoosiers on Monday night after transferring from Oregon. Ware was widely considered the second best prospect in the portal, behind only Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson.
The seven-footer was a five star recruit coming out of high school, ranked seventh nationally in his class. Per 24/7’s recruiting rankings, he is the second most highly-rated player to play at Indiana, trailing Romeo Langford.
Given Ware’s talent and skillset, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him entering next year’s NBA draft. He’s a prototypical modern big man, combining his size with smooth athleticism and a variety of ways of scoring.
One of the things that stands out about his game is his ability to catch and finish lobs out of a pick and roll. It’s easy to see him filling in for Trayce Jackson-Davis in that regard, as the pick and roll has been a staple in Woodson’s offense dating back to Xavier Johnson’s first year with the Hoosiers.
Part of what makes him such an elite prospect though is his ability to stay high after the screen and pop for a 3-pointer. He only hit 27.3% of his 55 attempts on the year, so it’s not a huge part of his game at this point, but his 71.2% free throw shooting suggests that he can improve in that area.
You can see in the second play in the above highlight, defenders will have to respect his ability to knock down an open three and won’t be able to sink down into the post after he sets a screen. Having him on the floor will stretch defenses like recent Indiana teams haven’t been able to, especially in the Big Ten where the post players aren’t as athletic.
With his athleticism, he can also get out and defend the perimeter better than an old-school post player. His 8.8% block rate and 1.3 blocks per game will go a long way in replacing Jackson-Davis’ defense all over the court. Significantly, he does so without fouling, averaging just 2.5 fouls per 40 minutes.
Ware is still a traditional forward in that he scores 35% of his points on post ups, but he has more range and touch than a typical Big Ten forward and doesn’t seek out contact the way you might expect from somebody his size.
Given his scoring radius, it’s easy to see how he could share the court with another forward, especially somebody like Malik Reneau who figures to score most of his points in or around the paint.
None of his raw stats jump off the page because of his limited playing time as a freshman at Oregon, but his 16.1% rebound rate puts him about on par with sophomore and junior year Trayce. Between him and Reneau, Indiana should actually be able to replace a lot of its production on the glass from last year.
Ware figures to be a starter immediately, likely alongside somebody like Reneau or potentially another player from the portal. Like I said above, I would not be surprised if Mike Woodson sends two bigs in a row to the NBA.