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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Making it count: Ineligible freshmen duo push KU practice, prep for future

Kansas freshmen Jamari Traylor, left, and Ben McLemore  watch the Late Night in the Phog festivities from the bench on Friday, Oct. 14, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas freshmen Jamari Traylor, left, and Ben McLemore watch the Late Night in the Phog festivities from the bench on Friday, Oct. 14, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Freshmen Jamari Traylor, Ben McLemore contributing in practice

Kansas basketball players Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor said freshmen Jamari Traylor and Ben McLemore, who are now eligible to practice, have brought another level of intensity and skill to KU's second team that will help the starters improve.

It didn’t take Ben McLemore long to remind his Kansas University basketball teammates of what they’re missing this season and what they can look forward to during the 2012-13 campaign.

The 6-foot-5 freshman from St. Louis — who along with 6-8 Chicago frosh Jamari Traylor was declared a partial qualifier in October, thus ineligible to practice first semester and ineligible to play in games all season — rammed a highlight-reel dunk to conclude his first official practice as a Jayhawk two weeks ago, before the Davidson game in Sprint Center.

That dunk — in which McLemore stands behind the three-point line, tosses the ball high in the air toward the goal, then elevates above the rim to catch his own pass and finish a left-handed jam — is available at the web address http://youtu.be/XxuvzaQ66rI.

“That was our first practice. I wanted to show I’ve still got the ups, hops and stuff,” McLemore said Thursday after KU’s 89-34 victory over Howard. “It got a lot of views on YouTube. It was a good experience. The first day of practice was worth it.”

McLemore and Traylor, who cannot play in today’s 3 p.m., nonconference clash against North Dakota, would like to feel they still will have an impact on the game.

Since passing a full load of classwork first semester, they’ve been allowed to practice against the rotation players every day and thus, in theory, make the squad better.

“Practice ... Jamari and I love it,” McLemore said. “T-Rob (Thomas Robinson), Elijah (Johnson) ... they say they like us in practice because we bring a lot of intensity. I mean we’re basically trying to get the starters better. We get out there hustling, playing defense, playing aggressive. They can take what we did in practice onto the real court. We are basically trying to help them get better and they get us better, too.”

It’s working out well, junior guard Johnson said.

“They are out there making a big difference,” Johnson stated. “It’s so much fun you don’t even think about being tired. Since they’ve been there the level of competition has shot out the roof. It’s their game. They are going hard and getting the most out of it.”

Traylor — he averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds last season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., while McLemore split time at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., and Christian Life Center in Houston — agrees he’s been bringing game-like effort to practices.

“We want to go out and show them (teammates) what we are made of,” Traylor said. “Coach (Bill Self) is really tough on the guys. At the same time, he is kind of humorous,” Traylor added of early observations. “Coach (Danny) Manning helps me a lot. He shows me the little things on my game I can work on. I’m learning a lot.”

During first semester, Traylor and McLemore had to practice on their own.

“We’d find a couple of guys to play with on the court, find somewhere to play ball, get in the gym and get shots up on our own and play each other 1-on-1,” Traylor said.

They also hit the books hard.

Self recently said one of the two had a 3.3 GPA, the other a 3.2. He also said both would be rotation players if currently eligible.

“Initially when I first came to school, I wanted to play. That wasn’t the ruling, so I had to swallow my pill I guess,” Traylor said. “I had to focus on my schoolwork. We did really well in school so we can play next year and practice this semester (in accordance with NCAA rules). We dedicated ourselves. We go to tutoring, make sure we are in class on time every day, make sure we do all our assignments, try to stay tuned in so we can do everything on the court.”

Added McLemore: “We go to tutoring every day faithfully, do what it takes to be on the court.”

They finally are allowed to be true members of the team. They can sit on the bench during games, whereas first semester they sat in the stands.

“Behind the bench is the worst spot to be,” McLemore said. “Being on the bench ... you get to be with the players.”

“I get to give everybody high-fives now. It’s a lot more exciting,” Traylor stated.

Nothing will compare to next season when the two are eligible to compete in games with four years of eligibility remaining if they choose to be in college four years.

McLemore enters college as Rivals.com’s No. 34-rated player in the Class of 2011; Traylor No. 141.

“We’ll be more prepared with the other freshmen coming in,” Traylor said. “I look at the bright side. We’ll have a lot more knowledge, and we’ll be more physically prepared for next year.”

“We’ve put in a lot of work,” McLemore said. “We’ve been together a lot. Pretty much next year, we’ll have a good chemistry with each other and the other freshmen.”

McLemore and Traylor pretty much are inseparable, though Ben rooms with Niko Roberts; Jamari with Christian Garrett.

“We might as well have been (roommates),” Traylor said with a laugh. “I’m always in his room; he’s always in my room. We’re together 90 percent of the time.”

Today’s foe: Defending Great West Conference tournament champion North Dakota enters with a 5-7 record. The Fighting Sioux are 5-1 at home and 0-6 on the road. Sophomore guard Troy Huff averages a team-leading 13.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Aaron Anderson averages 12.2 ppg and soph guard Jamal Webb 11.6 ppg, just ahead of senior forward Patrick Mitchell’s 11.4 ppg average.

“Kurtis (Townsend, KU assistant) has the scout, and he says they’re good,” Self said. “They’re going to be real good. They’re just young.”

North Dakota has lost to Western Illinois (twice), Sacramento State, South Dakota State, UMKC, Idaho State and Bradley. UND has beaten Waldorf, Idaho State, Montana, Jamestown and S.D. State.

UND is located in Grand Forks, N.D., and has an enrollment of 14,194.

All-time series: KU leads, 2-0. The Jayhawks won, 92-61, on Nov. 17, 2000, in Allen Fieldhouse and returned to UND the following season for Valley City, N.D., native Jeff Boschee. Boschee scored 23 points as KU prevailed, 108-77, on Dec. 22, 2001. Nick Collison added 16. There was a fierce blizzard the day of that game but it didn’t scare off the fans. UND had a then-attendance record 13,280 in the stands.

Comments

Scott MacWilliams 2 years, 9 months ago

All right, first in line from the Left Coast!! Who says two hours later is a bad thing!

I was glad to read that they will have four years of eligibility left. For some reason, I thought they got whacked for a year due to the grade screwup.

Sounds like these two really get it, how much hard work and dedication it takes, and I think having been forced to be observers for the last few months has probably helped that process.

Ben & Jamari, keep up the good work! We can all hardly wait till you get to suit up walk out on that Allen Field House floor for the first time. You are going to hear some big cheers, no doubt.

ROCK CHALK!!!

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CandB 2 years, 9 months ago

We are spoiled! We will be this year! Do we doubt this much? I don't think so! BEWARE OF THE PHOG OF DOUBT everyone. enjoy this. I am so glad to see the CT threes rain down. Go Jeff! you are a stud. you are just figuring that out.

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Mike Bratisax 2 years, 9 months ago

+1 Jamari is a beast. W/Manning able to give him a half year of coaching...look for him to be in next years rotation.

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DDDHawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Thanks for the link! I also liked another video named McLamore goes to Kansas that popped up once the video finished. That video shows him doing a dunk where he jumps over a teammate's head before the jam, and one showing how high on the backboard he can reach.

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Dan Pawlowski 2 years, 9 months ago

This article points out why sometimes I think it would be a good thing if freshman were not eligible to play. They get acclimated to college first.

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hawk316 2 years, 9 months ago

Apparent setbacks often contain hidden blessings. Ben and Jamari may look back and realize that this year actually worked to their benefit. I'm excited to see them on the court next year. They have much to contribute.

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Bangkok_Jayhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

I think a Red Shirt year is very valuable but I would admit that it is probably more useful in football than basketball. An 18 year old can be physically ready to play basketball but less 18 year olds are ready for football. Also, basketball is much more about athleticism and rhythm than football which is very technical as far as plays and techniques go.

No way an 18 year old could ever play in the NFL! I have a feeling that guys like LeBron and Durant were probably physically capable at 17 or 16.

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Mike Bratisax 2 years, 9 months ago

LeBron is a freak of nature..he would be on a very short list to go straight to the NFL as far as being physically mature if he had the skills. Most of the HS-NBA players could have benefited from a couple of years in college Even Kobe needed some time on the bench. Along with Lebron, Shawn Kemp Moses Malone Kevin Garnett Dwight Howard and maybe Darryl Dawkins were among the very few to make an immediate impact.

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Bangkok_Jayhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Next years freshman should be pretty awesome! McLemore, Traylor will both have the year under their belt. Add Ellis, White, Adams, Lucas, and Peters to that and you have a deep class.

EJ McLemore Releford Ellis Withey

Adams, White, Peters, and Lucas... Not a bad rotation!

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Jack Wilson 2 years, 9 months ago

Hmmm .. no Tharpe. If he's not in the rotation, boy what a bust. But seems like he'll have to be as we have only two true ballhandles in he and EJ.

Wonder if Adams will be eligible. Don't think so.

No Wesley in the rotation. Agreed there.

No Traylor in the rotation. Can't imagine Lucas or Peters being ahead of him.

No KY in the rotation. Again, can't imagine Lucas or Peters being ahead of him.

How about a late Tony Parker add? Or a late Nino Jackson add with an assurance of eligibity.

Best case (realistic) scenario:

1/2: EJ, McLemore, Tharpe, White 3: Releford, KY, White (can play both 2 and 3) 4/5: Withey, Ellis, Parker, Traylor.

No Parker, add in Lucas or Peters, or KY gets minutes at the 4.

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lv_jhwk 2 years, 9 months ago

I think it says something that Self took a commitment from Adams even with his possible eligibility issues rather than Nino.

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BrockIII 2 years, 9 months ago

The lack of ballhandlers next year is scary. More likely than not, Tharpe is not yet going to be ready for prime time and logging significant minutes. Hopefully, he makes the strides necessary to at least get in the rotation, spell EJ and be productive.

Despite Taylor's limitations, KU is going to miss him dearly. EJ will likely have to log 35+ minutes a game at the point and quickly get comfortable at handling the ball full-time. White or Adams (if eligible) will have to emerge as a reliable ballhandlers as well. As noted by scouts, ballhandling has not been McLemore's strong suit. We'll see what a year of practice does for him.

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BrockIII 2 years, 9 months ago

In regards to Nino Jackson - he is not even eligible for his high school team in Ardmore, so there is a slim chance Self would play with fire on that one.

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Jeeveshawk 2 years, 9 months ago

no Traylor or Tharpe? I'll admit that if Tharpe doesn't pull his head out of his ass next year that he probably won't play much, but I think its more likely that he will remember TRob, Morris twins, played terrible as freshmen.

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lv_jhwk 2 years, 9 months ago

While not anything spectacular, those three still made greater contributions as freshmen than Tharpe has so far. My comparison would be RussRob...remember how much he rode the bench (and the transfer rumors as a result) his initial year on campus?

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dynamitehawk 2 years, 9 months ago

What really excites me about the next group is 1) their academics and 2) it seems like they will be more interested in the program than muggin' on twitter about how hard they are.

On a completely different note... If we had not hired Gill and just gone without a football coach completely for three years we probably would have won more games and could have wisely spent 10 million on Will Smith remaking an awesome version of Gettin' Withey With It... Nah nah nah nah nah.

How would you waste 10 million?

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Jack Wilson 2 years, 9 months ago

How would I waste $10 million?

  1. $500,000 to St. Jude Children's hospital.
  2. $500,000 to my church.
  3. $2 million among my family
  4. $3 million in the most reliable dividend producing stocks.
  5. $500,000 summer house in Colorado.
  6. $500,000 winter house in Arizona.
  7. $2 million cash in the bank.
  8. $500,000 -- ensure the best KU basketball tickets available.
  9. $500,000 -- waste it somehow.
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LAJayhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

On tacos. All of it on tacos.

And maybe a bidet that shoots out diamonds. You'll never be cleaner!

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rwhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

I'd become a double-agent as a MU booster.

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hawksince51 2 years, 9 months ago

Good article. Brings back memories of my days at KU when freshmen were not eligible. Agree that with new recruits and these two our future is bright. And, I can't help but think how much better our prospects for this season would be with these 2 in the rotation.

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Robert Brock 2 years, 9 months ago

Having an extra semester to get ready will help out McLemore a lot. He is very athletic - a terrific leaper - but he needs plenty of work on his shooting and ball-handling.

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Ron Franklin 2 years, 9 months ago

"We dedicated ourselves. We go to tutoring, make sure we are in class on time every day, make sure we do all our assignments, try to stay tuned in so we can do everything on the court.”

Showing Up

Dedication

Focus

Ben & Jamari--you've just developed outstanding habits that will get you through anything in life. Keep up the great work and great attitudes.

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wildjayhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Where did Self dig up Tharpe? He looks like some of the duds that Self had the last couple of years.

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JJHawq 2 years, 9 months ago

Tharpe will be fine. He has a great work ethic ala trob and the morris twins. If you actually followed the team instead of just making negative comments, you would know where he was "dug up". I would bail you out and tell you, but then i would be further enabling your continued ignorance.

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wildjayhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

longtimehawk, you said it best.

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JJHawq 2 years, 9 months ago

Uh - ok. If you say so. If wildjayhawk wants to take pot shots at coach self and sharpetharpe - glad to hear there are idiots to defend him. Whats your point anyway?

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JJHawq 2 years, 9 months ago

So your take is that sharpe is a dud just like the rest of self's recruits??? I disagree. I think he will be fine. I also think coach has done a good job recruiting since he came here. I guess disagreeing with that makes me a turd?

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Robert Brock 2 years, 9 months ago

He dug him up from the New England Players, an AAU team that included Kaleb Tarczewski. Too bad that Kaleb didn't join Naadir in Lawrence.

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JJHawq 2 years, 9 months ago

He was also TRob's high school teammate

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rwhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

...but you don't know anything about him do you...

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Tony Bandle 2 years, 9 months ago

Next year we are going to be uber- talented and uber-young.

In 2012-13 Elijah, Travis, Jeff and Kevin will have to be the senior leaders.....I have yet to see that quality being evident in any of them so far. Hopefully they will grow into that role.

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Chris Shaw 2 years, 9 months ago

2014 and 2015 Back to Back National Champions!

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LAJayhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Random question:

I highly, highly doubt this will matter for either of these guys, but I'm curious how the rules work. Could either player redshirt for another year? I know there is something about the 5 year rule, and the clock starts ticking when you attend college, but there seems like there should be an exception when the NCAA does not allow you to play.

Just curious if anyone knows.

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REHawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Regardless of the recruiting stars attached to their bios, true freshmen will go through a first semester learning curve through Jan. 2013 while Kevin Young logs 20 minutes per game. Bank on it. Traylor and BenMac will enter next season with a tremendous advantage after this current semester of practice time. I predict that Tharpe will yet arrive. Imagine what 3 super athletes and an experienced 7' post man could do with a focused pass-first point guard. And that is not to denigrate TT's play one bit, at this juncture. The 2011-12 squad demands a much different style from its point guard than next year's squad will require. Without Tyshawn's scoring, this Jayhawk team would crash and burn, but for Bill Self defense.

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Jack Wilson 2 years, 9 months ago

Agreed .. freshmen, regardless of their rankings, need time to develop. Selby would have likely blossomed into a stud, but was quite the opposite as a freshman. Need to be patient with Tharpe. And I agree completely, a pass first point guard does wonders for those around him.

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Duane Rice 2 years, 9 months ago

Just remember the paper does have fill space and these ra ra stories sell the best.

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AsadZ 2 years, 9 months ago

That would be one heck of a LOOONGGG line up in Self era

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jayhawker_97 2 years, 9 months ago

great attitude from BMac & Traylor! can't wait to watch you two on TV! happy new year guys!

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