Player Spotlight: Kel’el Ware was a Bright Spot in a Gloomy Week for IUBB

Iowa v Indiana
Iowa v Indiana / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

The past week for Indiana basketball may be one of the more memorable ones in recent memory. Memorable for the wrong reasons? Probably, but memorable nonetheless. It was marked by losing at home to Penn State in embarrassing fashion, but it also included a thrilling win vs. Iowa. Both of these games were certainly memorable, but obviously for different reasons. There was one common denominator: Kel’el Ware stepping up in both games. He continues to look more and more like an NBA-level center.

Ware started out his week with a very solid performance Tuesday against Iowa. This was his first game back after missing two games due to an ankle injury suffered in practice before the Hoosiers’ game against Wisconsin. In the two contests he was unable to play in, he was sorely missed, especially on the defense end. This was even more evident when he stepped back on the floor on Tuesday, as his defense and presence truly impacted the game. 

His three blocks are the obvious stat to look at, but beyond that, just watching how Iowa ran their offense could tell you the effect he has on the game. The Hawkeyes did not want to work inside for most of the contest, but when they did, more often than not the shot was altered in some fashion by Ware's presence.

On offense he was similarly effective, scoring a game-high 23 points on 8/10 shooting from the field for the Hoosiers. He also buried the only triple he took all game, showing that while he may not shoot the outside shot much, he is more than capable of making you pay for leaving him open. While all this is important, this is without mentioning what is possibly the most effective facet of his game.

This is his offensive rebounding and putback ability, as he collected 5 total offensive rebounds and converted them into second-chance points on 4 of those occasions. One of these was an electric dunk that sealed the victory for the Hoosiers and sent Assembly Hall into a frenzy. This was the bright spot of the week for IU, as this was a very solid conference win in front of the home crowd.

Saturday, unlike Tuesday, the Hoosiers could not get the win, as they took a 14 point loss at the hands of Penn State. Many Hoosier fans were embarrassed by this performance, but Ware had a very respectable game. He scored 25, a game-high for both teams, including 17 points in the first half. This is where he was truly dominant, having his way in the post and even outside where he made one three. Again, rebounding was his strong suit, as he grabbed 11 boards to give him a double-double for the second straight game.

Although the team ended the week on a bad note, Ware may have won the week anyway. This is because of his NBA Draft stock, as he is assumed to declare after this season is over. These back-to-back monstrous performances were a great way for Ware to continue to boost his NBA draft stock. He is already being projected to go somewhere in the mid-late 1st round, but he could easily go higher if he continues to play like he has been the past few games.

While this is all great for Ware, the Hoosiers are all but eliminated from NCAA Tournament contention with the loss to Penn State. This is obviously not what IU fans want to hear, but Kel’el Ware can keep his head high knowing that he has done everything he can to help push his team through this rough stretch.