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 Heat Introduces First-Round Pick Kel’el Ware: Pat Riley Lauds ‘the Specific Player We Wanted’

The Miami Heat targeted Indiana center Kel’el Ware during the pre-draft process, delighted he was available when it was their turn in the first round. Following an impressive pre-draft workout at Kaseya Center, the Heat selected Ware with the 15th overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft. The Heat had Ware ranked higher than 15th on their draft board.

“We feel very fortunate that we were able to get the specific player we wanted, who can complement our team and Bam [Adebayo],” Heat president Pat Riley said during Ware’s introductory news conference at Kaseya Center. “[Heat vice president of basketball operations and assistant general manager] Adam Simon and all involved — [Heat vice president of player personnel] Eric Amsler, [Heat director of college and pro scouting] Keith Askins, [Heat senior advisor of basketball operations] Chet Kammerer — his name was always prominent. The videos and his exceptional workout confirmed our high opinion of him.”

On Friday, Ware addressed reporters as a Heat first-round pick. Accompanied by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, Riley, and his college coach Mike Woodson, Ware shared his excitement. “It’s been crazy, but I’m enjoying it, especially talking to Pat Riley.

He’s been around for a while, so I’ll use my time here to learn as much as I can from him and coach Spo,” Ware said. The Heat is intrigued by Ware’s potential. At 7-feet tall and 230 pounds with a 7-foot-5 wingspan, Ware adds significant size to the roster. He averaged 15.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.9 blocks per game while shooting 58.6 percent from the field and 42.5 percent from three-point range in 30 games as a sophomore at Indiana.

His ability to shoot threes and block shots makes him an ideal candidate to play alongside All-Star center Bam Adebayo or as the lone big man when Adebayo is on the bench. Adebayo endorsed Ware’s selection, stating, “It’s always good to have a 7-footer next to you.” Ware felt encouraged by Adebayo’s support, saying, “It motivates me to get better so I can play by his side.”

Woodson, Ware’s college coach, praised the Heat organization. “I told him: ‘With a great attitude, hard work, and coachability, you’re in the perfect place with Pat, Micky [Arison], and Spo.’ His skill set is there, he just needs to learn the NBA way and add some weight,” Woodson said. He highlighted Ware’s ability to run the floor, block shots, and rebound but emphasized the need for consistency in shooting threes and adapting to the NBA’s physical demands.

Ware is set to make about $4.2 million this upcoming season as the 15th pick and will be under team control for five seasons. He can sign his first NBA contract on July 1. The Heat also selected Arizona wing Pelle Larsson with the 44th overall pick, marking their first multiple additions from the draft since 2019.

Next for Ware and Larsson is summer league basketball in San Francisco and Las Vegas. Miami’s first summer league game is on July 6. Ware looks forward to learning and developing, saying, “This organization loves to compete and play hard. It’s the best place for me to be pushed to my limits and become the best player I can be.”


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