From a State Title to the McDonald’s All-American Game to the Nike Hoop Summit, Kel’el Ware has Done it All
The 7-footer is showing off his skills around the country before playing for Oregon in the fall.
Kel’el Ware’s senior season has been an amazing ride, featuring one memorable stop after another.
First came an Arkansas Class 6A state championship.
Ware, a 7-foot center, helped North Little Rock High School win its final 18 games en route to its second consecutive state title. He averaged a double-double in points and rebounds and added over five blocks a game this season.
“I’m happy with how we were able to come together as a team,” Ware said, “and that the people who won last year were able to enjoy that moment again.”
The next stop was the McDonald’s All-American Game. Ware, 17, registered a game-high 10 rebounds and scored eight points, including a thunderous one-handed putback dunk that showed off his length and athleticism.
“I feel like I did good at the game. I showed scouts things that they haven’t seen before,” Ware said. “Not many people get to be McDonald’s All-Americans and share the court with other players with that skill level. I had a really fun time.”
That brings Ware to the final stop of his magical senior season — a trip to Portland, Oregon, to play in the Nike Hoop Summit on April 8. The prestigious event features a dozen standout high school seniors from the United States against a team of elite international prospects.
The opportunity to represent his country will be a first for Ware, who is looking forward to putting on that USA Basketball jersey.
“That feels great to be able to do that,” Ware said. “Because, like I said before, not many people get to do this. I’m playing for USA and that’s a big thing. I’m excited to represent the USA and most definitely my family back home and my name too. It’s an honor.”
After the Nike Hoop Summit, the next ride of Ware’s basketball journey will take place at the University of Oregon. The distance between Little Rock, Arkansas, and Eugene, Oregon, is significant, but Ware expects to feel right at home on the basketball court when he suits up for the Ducks.
“They’re expecting big things from me,” said Ware, who is regarded as one of the top recruits in the Class of 2022. “I feel like I’m going to be able to give that to them.”
While Ware is certainly an elite talent, he enjoyed an advantage over other high school stars in that he got to play with another top-level player. High school teammate Nick Smith Jr., a dynamic combo guard and a fellow All-American, is headed to the University of Arkansas in the fall.
“Defenses had to deal with him on the perimeter, dribbling in space,” Ware said, “and then me on the inside, just being able to score anytime I wanted. And we have great chemistry. I know when he’s going to throw me a lob, and I know where he’s going to throw it.”
Ware believes that playing with Smith benefited his game and helped his growth as a player.
“Nick’s a competitor, a hard worker,” Ware said. “We’ve definitely made each other better.”
Ware believes his improvement has taken place in steady fashion throughout his high school career. He acknowledges that he began to take basketball more seriously as a sophomore when he started getting recruited by some major programs.
“I started realizing what I would be able to do to help my family out if I make it to the NBA,” Ware said.
In terms of specific areas where he has improved, Ware highlighted his increased willingness to use his body to his advantage.
“I would say playing physical and not caring about getting hit,” he said.
The soft-spoken Ware noted that he can always play better, hustle more and improve as a shooter, and in other key areas, which will benefit him in college and perhaps one day in the NBA.
One area where he already excels is his ability to tune out the detractors — those who say he’s too skinny, too soft or nitpick the few flaws in his game.
“I don’t listen to what people say,” Ware said. “Right now, really, I’m just trying to show everyone who I am as a player and what I’m here for and what I’m capable of doing.”