Monday, June 6, 2011

Welcome to Kansas: Freshman Ben McLemore settling in to new surroundings

Kansas University freshman Ben McLemore, right, observes the campers during Bill Self’s basketball camp on Sunday, June 5, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse. Next to McLemore is KU junior guard Elijah Johnson.

Kansas University freshman Ben McLemore, right, observes the campers during Bill Self’s basketball camp on Sunday, June 5, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse. Next to McLemore is KU junior guard Elijah Johnson.


Ben McLemore, who witnessed Kansas University basketball mania for the first time at Late Night in the Phog, experienced his second dose of the craziness on Sunday in Allen Fieldhouse.

The 6-foot-5, 185-pound KU freshman shooting guard from St. Louis, sat at a table for 21⁄2 hours, signing autographs for wave after wave of wide-eyed youngsters on hand for orientation at the four-day Bill Self basketball camp.

“The players told me how it was going to be. I didn’t believe it for real. I had to see it for myself. It’s pretty shocking, all these people wanting our autographs. It’s pretty fun,” said McLemore, who arrived in Lawrence for summer school on Saturday afternoon.

“I’m here to work hard every day, stay focused on my books. That’s the main thing I’m going to be worrying about this summer — the books,” added McLemore, who, after being dismissed from Oak Hill Academy second semester, graduated from Houston’s Christian Life Academy.

McLemore said he finished the semester with straight A’s.

“That was a good thing, a big ol’ plus,” he said with a smile.

McLemore has arrived at KU with a reputation as a high-flying athlete with an ability to hit the deep three as well as drive the lane and baseline for vicious slams.

“My freshman and sophomore year, everybody thought all I can do is dunk, so I got my mid-range game and three-point shot consistent,” McLemore said.

“I’ll be more a slasher. I’m going to shoot, dunk on people, stuff like that.”

He said he considers himself, “a wing, a shooting guard, a slasher for real. That’s what I want to be, a slasher all over the place,” McLemore stated.

He averaged 16 points and seven boards at the Houston high school after exploding for 28.3 points and 12.7 rebounds his junior year at St. Louis’ Wellston High. His Oak Hill stats have been unavailable.

“I’m like every other freshman wanting to come in here and work hard,” said McLemore, who will be rooming this summer with sophomore walk-on Niko Roberts. “As a freshman you know you don’t have a spot (in rotation), so you come in and work at it and get one.”

He’s willing to take his chances at a school he’s wanted to attend for some time. It just took him a little while to convince his mom, Sonya, a Missouri fan, that KU was the place to be.

“It’s a big relief,” he said of stepping on campus. “It was a hard decision. I had difficult choices and stuff, people pulling me here and there. It was a good decision. I’m happy I’m here now, though.”

His mom and two cousins drove him here Saturday from St. Louis. Sonya is totally at peace with her son choosing KU over her beloved Tigers.

“It was a good drive. I was sleeping most of the way,” said McLemore, the No. 34-rated prospect in the Class of 2011 by “It got a little emotional. Every time we stopped, I talked to her about it (leaving home), about college and stuff.”

McLemore currently is joined on campus by fellow freshman Naadir Tharpe, a 6-foot point guard from Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H. Two other members of the freshman class, Braeden Anderson and Jamari Traylor, will be here in coming days.

“It’s nice,” McLemore said of hanging out with Tharpe. “I’ll get real tight with him. He’s going to be the point guard. That’s what you are supposed to do.”

Tharpe is a big fan of McLemore’s game.

“He’s definitely a great player. I’ve seen him play a couple times at Oak Hill. I played against him,” Tharpe said. “He works real hard. He can rebound the ball well. Seeing him at Oak Hill, he’s definitely improved his jump shot.”

KU junior Thomas Robinson likes what he’s seen out of both newcomers.

“I think they get along with everybody. It will be a smooth transition for them,” Robinson said. “Those guys have their head on straight. They know what they want to do, come in here and work hard and that’s their main focus. They fit right in. I think the coaches take care of that part. They know the type of guys that will fit in with us, along with the talent.”


Funhawk 8 years, 10 months ago

Reading LJW articles about the new freshmen make us wish basketball season were starting tomorrow! Can't wait!

duanep5ku 8 years, 10 months ago

I have two agree with the previous posters about this team.

I'm really excited about this team and I can't Wait for the new season to begin. The bad news as someone already mentioned, 131 days til late Night, Ouch, but the good news Kansas Fans is that this Class is not going to be missing in action this Summer like some others chose to do recently.

This class is going to be here this Summer and their ready and hopefully that will translate in to a great team next year.

Ben, it was certainly great to hear that you are also a dedicated student in the class room, straight A,s, wow great Job. Oh, and this article also shows how smart your basketball IQ may be, I mean getting in good with the new point guard, the assist guy on the team, priceless.

To Naadir Tharpe and the rest of the incoming players, I would like to say welcome to to Lawrence, have a great Summer and best of luck to all of you. Oh, and let's show next year on the court just how some rankings really missed on just how good you guys can be on the court and off.

gratefultyler 8 years, 10 months ago

Just don't sell those autographs for tattoos! Laughing in Michigan...

clevelandjayhawker 8 years, 10 months ago

Wonder what the moment in the car ride was like when they drove by columbia? I would have pretended to be asleep too

Tony Bandle 8 years, 10 months ago

Whenever I drive through to Columbia either heading toward Lawrence or coming back, I roll down the window and spit.

It just seems to be the natural thing to do!!!

Andy Tweedy 8 years, 10 months ago

Wouldn't the right thing to do include going a few hundred miles out of your way and drive across Iowa? You can avoid Columbia completely!

goshenjhawk 8 years, 10 months ago

Oakville, that is my exact tradition as well! My wife doesn't always appreciate the blast of cold air if she is sleeping, but you got to do what you got to do:)

Mike Kendall 8 years, 10 months ago

Oakville---you nasty boy!!!!! Spitting in Columbia is good.

Like Cleveland said (you beat me to the punch), sleeping in the car while driving through Columbia would be easy for me to do.

cklarock 8 years, 10 months ago

If it's anything like my drives between Lawrence and St. Louis, the drivers 30 minutes to either side of Columbia are just jaw-droppingly dumb. Two mouth breathers driving shoulder-to-shoulder 5 mph below the speed limit backing traffic up for a half mile, that kind of thing.

Orangedog87 8 years, 10 months ago

LOL sometimes reading these is just too much fun

Mike Kendall 8 years, 10 months ago

And then some!!!!!!! {All apologies to Bruce Willis in the "Last Boy Scout"}

Scott Smetana 8 years, 10 months ago

Don't forget about the 3 million billboards advertising Walnut bowls and Liquor-Firework-Tobacco stores. Also watch out for potholes on one of the oldest sections of interstate anywhere in the U.S. Gotta love Methsewery!

LAJayhawk 8 years, 10 months ago

When driving the opposite way, you pass the single letter signs... M... I... Z...

My tradition the handful of times I drove it was at each one to scream F... U... C... and so on...

Then once inside the city limits, the windows are rolled down and the spelling comes to fruition. After all, if you don't clearly state what you are spelling, mizzboo-ians would never understand....

LAJayhawk 8 years, 10 months ago

BTW, anyone ever drive to Columbia for a game and see those stupid tiger tails hanging out of the trunk? For the longest time I thought they were KU fans... I mean, it looks like they had abducted a tiger and threw it in the trunk, then shut the door on its tail.

Stupid mizzou fans. Can't even get do car paraphernalia correctly without being weirdly ambiguous.

Tony Bandle 8 years, 10 months ago

Having watched Ben play in St.Louis and knowing that he would be a Jayhawk sooner or later, all I can tell you guys is you're going to love him and his game.

He is exactly who he says he is...unlike some previously highly-rated freshmen, he is fearless on the drive and will take it to the hoop. He has a wonderful and deep three point shot.

The only drawback in his game, believe it or not, is that he needs to be more "selfish". He is such a good kid, he tries to put everyone before himself. I am sure our coaching staff will smooth out this little wrinkle.

I do hope he puts on another 10-15 pounds of muscle, which shouldn't slow him down.

LAJayhawk 8 years, 10 months ago

"The only drawback in his game, believe it or not, is that he needs to be more 'selfish'."

Another Brandon Rush-type, hey? An acceptable problem to have if you ask me. Teaching selfishness is far easier than the other way around...

Clarence Haynes 8 years, 10 months ago

"I’m going to shoot, dunk on people, stuff like that.”

Great attitude BMac!

REHawk 8 years, 10 months ago

Kudos to these two guards for arriving early, jumping right into the flow of Jayhawk summer events, talking the good talk. The current and future wellbeing of Kansas Hoops depends very much on their quick development, meshing now with seasoned veterans, building firm foundations with the athletic program and fanbase. They both appear to have academics on their minds...a good sign for longer tenures than Josh or X.

Ron Franklin 8 years, 10 months ago

I think Ben has a slight resemblance to a young Jamie Foxx. Excited to see these guys develop over the next four years.

KPOP 8 years, 10 months ago

131 days is a long way away (or not). Lots can happen between now and then. The young guns need to get bigger and better, no matter how good they think they are.

wtarush 8 years, 10 months ago

In highschool most ballers just get a kick out of seeing their names in the local paper, others may get a spot on the nightly newscast once in a while, and a few may actually get a national audience at the yearly McD's All American game...

It must be hard to imagine the scope coming in, but the freshman; Ben, Naadir, Braeden and Jamari, are now right smack in the biggest spotlight in the middle of the United States, bright enough to cast a glow on both coasts and seen by millions. Many games are broadcast for the entire country to see! Every time they step on the court with their shoes tied the Jayhawk Nation will know about it...what they do this summer and fall will dictate how we "feel" about it.

Now, its not just a full highschool gym that will be watching them play, but hundreds of thousands will watch every game. EVERY game waiting for a shot...a steal...a pass...a save... that will make the hairs on our necks stand on end and give everyone a reason to cheer, bringing elation into our lives! Much of the JH Nation even plan their days...weeks...seasons around "The Game". Some will even put off much-needed vacations from tiresome lives so they won't miss a single free throw! Certainly the veterans already know this, but the scope has to be hard for them to explain to someone that hasn't experienced it. (And I am not so naive to think that I could fully understand what it is to be a Jayhawk Basketball Player)

Pressure? Yup, they have it... Expectaions? That too... But they have shown HCBS that they have what it takes to be able to do the work every day that will make them great. Now all they have to do is... just do it. (I run marathons and other rigorous races... just doing it is far easier said than done.)

To the Freshmen: "Good luck...but with hard work, you won"t need it."

("The best time to make yourself better is when you feel like doing it the least" Dad told me that many years ago.)

RockChalk JayHawk!!!

Tony Bandle 8 years, 10 months ago that you under an assumed post name???

wtarush..I have never seen a post from you before but this one knocks it out of the park. Don't be such a stranger.

PS I think your Dad and my Dad had a conversation many years ago because that's exactly what he told me and my four brothers as well!!

duanep5ku 8 years, 10 months ago

I concur with Oakville What a great post,so don't be a stranger on here,comeback and post often

Mike Kendall 8 years, 10 months ago

Include me on your request, duanep5ku. Love those kind of posts. Rock Chalk!

Make_Ur_Free_Throws 8 years, 10 months ago

So let the slashing begin!!!

Welcome Ben!

Can't wait to see you dunking in Columbia!

Rock Chalk!

wtarush 8 years, 10 months ago

OakvilleJHawk, duanep5ku, mikendal... Thank you.

Over the years I have enjoyed, relatively in silence, coming to know you from your posts. "Jaybate"......thank you.

Scott MacWilliams 8 years, 10 months ago

Welcome to Jayhawk Mania, guys!

I wonder what it's like for those young men to have this happen when they first get to town, though. I would probably get a fat head, with all those kids treating me like a star already...

Keep it in perspective, Ben, Naadir, Braeden, and Jamari. Having all those kids idolize you isn't going to get you on the court at gametime, but you all seem pretty well grounded. Just listen to what TRob, Travis and the rest of the 'old' 'Hawks have to offer, they won't steer you wrong.

Rock Chalk!!!

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