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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Keegan

Opinion: Ben McLemore also stands out when blending in

The fieldhouse gets up for a breakaway jam from Kansas guard Ben McLemore during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012.

The fieldhouse gets up for a breakaway jam from Kansas guard Ben McLemore during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self talks after win over Colorado

KU coach Bill Self talks after the Jayhawks' 90-54 victory over Colorado on Dec. 8, 2012.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Travis Releford, Kevin Young and Ben McLemore

Kansas players Travis Releford, Kevin Young and Ben McLemore talk after the Jayhawks' 90-54 victory over Colorado on Dec. 8, 2012.

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Box score

KU-Colorado

His highlight film centers on high-flying, reach-back dunks and soft-falling three-point shots, yet so early in Kansas University red-shirt freshman Ben McLemore’s basketball development, he already does so much more to influence the outcome of a basketball game.

McLemore relied on just one dunk and two three-pointers during his 24-point effort that included five rebounds, two assists (three actually, but one mistakenly was credited elsewhere) and two steals in Saturday afternoon’s 90-54 annihilation of Colorado in Allen Fieldhouse.

Driving more without forcing it resulted in McLemore’s shooting 11 free throws, 10 of which he made. He looked like a player in the process of understanding how to blend in without sacrificing aggressiveness.

To watch such a loud talent play background music when the situation called for it raises the question of whether he has studied a role player closely to expand his game. He has, and his name is Travis Releford.

“He’s a great player,” McLemore said. “I love Travis. He knows what his role on the team is. He knows what he has to bring to the team to make the team better. He’s also a senior. He’s been through a lot. I love his game. I love his personality. He definitely can guard. And offensively, he knows it’s going to come to him. I just love watching Travis play.”

McLemore began practicing with Kansas second semester last season and wasn’t allowed to play in games until this season. He began studying Releford well before that.

“I can definitely learn a lot from him and all the seniors,” McLemore said. “I told Travis when I got here, before boot camp started, ‘I’m going to be watching you. I’m going to be everywhere you are just because I want to learn a lot from you. You’ve been here a lot longer than me.’”

McLemore’s the prodigy in an otherwise all-senior starting five that combined for 15 assists, five turnovers and seven steals Saturday.

“Right now, I get advice from Travis, advice from Jeff (Withey), advice from Kevin (Young), advice from Elijah (Johnson),” McLemore said.

McLemore, the most talented basketball player to show up at Kansas in decades, was involved in a memorable play Saturday with each one of his co-starters, not one of those plays a dunk or three-pointer.

They all came after a spectacular play in which he needed no help. McLemore received credit for a steal when he stripped the ball from Spencer Dinwiddie, tipped it over his head and ran it down to give Kansas a 12-3 lead.

“I tipped it over him so he wouldn’t get possession of it and went down and got the easy bucket,” McLemore said, making it sound as easy as it looked.

The margin grew to 18-3 when Johnson made his man pick up his dribble in the lane, enabling McLemore to step in front of a pass and take it all the way to the other end for a contested layup made at high speed.

Early in the second half, McLemore had the ball in transition, stopped at the free-throw line and delivered a spot-on bounce pass to Releford for a dunk that expanded KU’s lead to 52-22. On that play, McLemore looked about as close to a second-option point guard as Kansas has on the roster.

The rout grew to 63-29 when in such ultra-quick fashion McLemore cut to the hoop and Withey kissed a perfectly angled bounce pass off the floor for an easy bucket. Not many 7-footers can make that pass. Then McLemore threw a perfect lob to Kevin Young to make it 65-29, a play on which Releford (10 points, six assists, no turnovers) received the credit for the assist in the official game statistics.

“On the play before, he was talking to me and saying, ‘I’m going to keep running, so look for me.’ We got a break and I saw him, so I just tossed it up to him, and we got two points,” McLemore said of Young. “The crowd just got into it and made us keep rolling.”

The student section of the crowd got into it long before the center jump.

The enthusiasm coach Tad Boyle has injected into the Colorado program showed itself in the form of a strong showing of CU students who scored tickets for Saturday’s game.

This was not lost on Kansas students, whose adrenaline was inflated by the sight of enemy colors. KU’s students brought their best energy, and the team they worshipped turned it up a notch. Crowd and players sustained the concert atmosphere for two hours.

As far as suspense, not even Jim Ryun in his prime could have run a mile in the time between when the game tipped off and it ended. It certainly wasn’t a bad game for the many football recruits in the crowd to witness.

“If you’re going to play basketball in college, there’s no better setting than playing a Saturday afternoon game in Allen Fieldhouse with the light shining through the windows,” KU coach Bill Self said.

Having the privilege of watching a young star such as McLemore shining brighter every week only enhances the experience.

Comments

Jayhawk470 1 year, 10 months ago

Early on, I thought Perry Ellis ought to be in the starting five instead of Ben McLemore; but I take it back. B-Mac has earned his starting spot. I do hope we can get Perry going, though. He's a talented player, but he still has some work to do.

KUinFL2 1 year, 10 months ago

This looked like a KU team. Wait until they all get on the same page, including Ellis. They looked like the 2007 and 2008 squads, lots of tipped balls, lots of easy baskets. This will be a real, real good team.

Phil Leister 1 year, 10 months ago

Not sure why you'd ever think Perry would play the 3. They're not the same position.

Phil Leister 1 year, 10 months ago

Point is 1, shooting guard is 2, small forward/wing is 3 (think B-Rush), power forward is 4, center is 5. You're right about Perry and T-Rob, they're both 4's. It's pretty straight forward other than the 2 and 3 spot, where there is a bit of interchange. Releford and McLemore could both be considered the 2 or 3.

Jonathan Allison 1 year, 10 months ago

I also could imagine a lineup in which Young started at the 3, Ellis at 4, Withey at 5, along with EJ and Travis in the backcourt. It would be a potent defensive unit for sure. But it's pretty clear now that the team needs McLemore out there for both his O and his D, and Ellis just isn't quite ready yet.

Phil Leister 1 year, 10 months ago

If that's a starting lineup, no way. McLemore has to start. But at some point during a game, that would be a decent group to have out there for the couple minutes that McLemore needs to rest.

hucking_fawks_rock 1 year, 10 months ago

1 = point guard 2 = combo/shooting guard 3 = small forward 4 = power forward 5 = center

Jonathan Allison 1 year, 10 months ago

just line up the five guys on the floor and number them according to size with 1 being the smallest and 5 being the biggest and you'll be right most of the time!

Obviously I know that position is based on skill set, though often skill set is developed based on size. Of course many if not most high school players are still growing, and their skills generally are forced to adapt to their build.

Will Babbit 1 year, 10 months ago

He would be playing the 4 spot (or small forward) in place of Young.

Correct me if I'm wrong guys, but in our general lineup (3 guard), the 1 is the point guard, the 2 and 3 is the shooting guard, the 4 is the power forward, and the 5 is the center.

If we play big the 3 becomes the small forward, the 4 is the power forward, and the 5 is the center.

Mike Bratisax 1 year, 10 months ago

Basically a 1 is the point guard, 2 is the shooting guard, 3 is a small forward, 4 is the power forward and 5 is the center. Obviously there is a lot of overlapping between the players. Most players can play at multiple positions so don't get too much wrapped up with the numbers. Coach Self looks for the best combination of players and often has three guards on the court at the same time.

TxJyHwk 1 year, 10 months ago

I believe the 1 is point guard, 2 is shooting guard, 3 is small forward, 4 is power forward & 5 is center

Joseph Kuebel 1 year, 10 months ago

1 is point, 2 is shooting guard, 3- is small forward, 4-power forward, 5-center. Basketball 101.

Jason Keller 1 year, 10 months ago

Best player in decades? I might agree...

aerohawk 1 year, 10 months ago

Paul Pierce? Ben might take it for the last 10 years but not sure about the last 20 years.

NebraskaJayhawk 1 year, 10 months ago

As good as Pierce was, I think BMac has more potential if that's possible. He's more polished as a freshman than Pierce was, but some of that might be due to the fact that he got to practice with a talented class ahead of him for a year and also develop his body for a year under Hudy. Either way, the kid is phenominal.

doctorWho 1 year, 10 months ago

I'm going to have to see much more out of him before I start saying he has more potential than an NBA All Star.

Cameron Cederlind 1 year, 10 months ago

Keep in mind this is Ben McLemore 8 games in to his freshmen season. I would imagine if he stayed until his Junior (not including redshirt) season, he would hold a lot of KU records.

jhox 1 year, 10 months ago

He will be the best KU player to hit the pros since Pierce. He is definitely on a different level. His shot is coming along. If he ever gets a consistent mid range jumper he will be a regular in the NBA all star game.

LAJayhawk 1 year, 10 months ago

Jordan didn't develop his outside shot consistently until the 1990 season. BMac's potential is astronomically high, and he seems to have the work ethic to reach it.

Mike Bratisax 1 year, 10 months ago

Best since Paul Pierce... Need a lot more evidence before going beyond that.

lawerencejayhawk 1 year, 10 months ago

Best performances from the Kansas-Colorado game from the stats:

Ben McLemore- 30 mins, 6 for 16 from the floor, 2 for 6 from 3, 5 rebounds, 10 for 11 from the free throw line, 24 points.

Kevin Young- 20 mins, 8 for 9 from the floor, 8 rebounds, 2 assist, 2 steals, 16 points.

Andrew White- 8 mins, 3 for 5 from the floor, 2 for 3 from 3 & 8 points.

KU fans best in America.

Michael Luby 1 year, 10 months ago

I think Trav deserves some credit as a back up PG too considering his asst/to line was better than EJ's and EJ seemed to play better off the ball.

bennybob 1 year, 10 months ago

Self's got another scholarship to offer this year. Mclemore is a lottery pick!

jhox 1 year, 10 months ago

I'll go further out on a limb. He's a top 5 pick. I would not be shocked if he goes 1 or 2 overall.

LAJayhawk 1 year, 10 months ago

Ha. I actually typed a reply that said he was top 5 at this point, but then deleted it. Not sure if he'll wind up 1 or 2, but I am pretty confident -- baring a dramatic fall off or injury -- that he'll be top 5.

Phil Leister 1 year, 10 months ago

It all depends on how far we make it this year. If we win the Big12 and make a deep run in the tournament, he's a lock top 5. If, for some strange reason, we don't win the conference and make a sweet 16, I see him winding up around 15 or so.

There's no way he's not a lottery pick though.

Jonathan Allison 1 year, 10 months ago

Unless, as you can see, he winds up at 15 or lower. There there is a way that he's not a lottery pick.

KansasComet 1 year, 10 months ago

Ben McLemore is faced with a difficult decision. He may be considered a freshman as far as eligibility, but this is his second year of college. He may be half way home to earning his degree. For selfish reasons, (no pun intended) I would love for him to stay at least another year. I would not be surprised if he stays for another year and further pursues his degree. Having that 3rd year out of the way would make it easier for him to pick up the rest as a professional athlete.

Anyway, I have enjoyed his time here, and he doesn't even have 10 games under his belt. Looking forward to seeing how the rest of this season shakes out.

As I have stated before, Andrew White III just has something about him. It's like he visualizes things in his mind before they happen. He smoothly positions himself before he takes that "money" jumper. I think he will go down as one of the best shooters of the basketball we have ever had. He just needs more minutes. Some may think he is still not ready. I still maintain that he has been ready from the start. I love his attitude, while he patiently waits for his chance to contribute. I have a feeling that he will get his chance come conference time.

Oh yeah, one more thing before I go. Jaybate, believes that Brady Morningstar could start for this current Jayhawk team. Why, I will never know? I have an opinion about anyone that was known for feeding the post and moving the ball well. That means he didn't want the ball to begin with, kind of like "hot potato".

Anyway, great win by a Kansas team that is destined to return to the top 5, where they belong. At the beginning of the season, I was upset when N.C. State was ranked above us. I said they were overrated and unproven. I don't think I was too far off.

Tom Gillaspie 1 year, 10 months ago

White won't be seeing a lot of floor time until he proves he can play defense at DIV 1 level.

Stan Unruh 1 year, 10 months ago

I think we all hope BMac stays one more year. Look at the lack of PT Selby and Henry are getting in the NBA. One or 2 more years at KU and they'd have been much improved. (I know they are getting $$) There is more to life than $$.

doctorWho 1 year, 10 months ago

Selby and Henry don't get PT because they were over-hyped. Selby, especially, was drafted based on potential. The difference between BMac and those two will be that BMac looks like he will actually be a dominant player for KU.

There are probably 20 one-and-done players in the NBA right now who are doing fine. I suspect BMac will be another.

wannabe 1 year, 10 months ago

You are absolutly right. Any player who is known for moving the ball well or feeding the post isn't going to amount to much.

That Stockton guy comes to mind. What a loser!

David Brown 1 year, 10 months ago

The Colorado fans were loud before the game. However, during the second half when the game was a rout, the KU student section cheered (jeered?) at them, "We can't hear you! We can't hear you!" A great day to be in the Fieldhouse and witness the 'Hawks.

LAJayhawk 1 year, 10 months ago

BMac is now shooting 86.1% from the line. As much as he will continue to get there throughout the season, that may be his most important stat.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 10 months ago

But Withey is really slumping this year?

LAJayhawk 1 year, 10 months ago

He is definitely down so far this year, but 40 attempts is a very small sample size. I expect his percentage to increase as the season goes on. And I definitely hope it does. He is likely to see the foul line a lot, especially in conference play.

Mel Clare 1 year, 10 months ago

Decades? Wow..................not sure I agree with this one.........

gimmetheclaw78 1 year, 10 months ago

Nice article, Keegs. So nice to see that a kid, so highly skilled, also has the desire and the humility to be a student of the game. It's also great to see Travis apparently embracing his role of a mentor. I wonder if he sees himself as a future coach. He certainly seems to have a remarkably high level of comprehension of the game, with all it's subtleties.

gimmetheclaw78 1 year, 10 months ago

The above statement was not meant to imply that Releford may not experience a career as a pro player. I certainly think he could. Rock Chalk!

Jim Jackson 1 year, 10 months ago

Why aren't we playing 'Rio more? He's got much better upside than Tharpe.

Mike Bratisax 1 year, 10 months ago

I think he has more upside also but Tharpe is still the better choice now. Adams will most likely overtake Tharpe late this season or sometime next season.

Rian Ankerholz 1 year, 10 months ago

Just a note: In the cover photo, look at how many open mouths there are --- and staid lower section fans jumping to their feet in anticipation of BMac's dunk. Kansas Basketball fever is contagious. It thrives as a result of our knowledgeable, dedicated, and enthusiastic fanbase. We are some of the luckiest fans in the world to be able to attend games in our hallowed sanctuary of roundball, watching new talent bloom, and watching established players share their experience. Make no mistake, if there is a bigscreen in the sky, then Wilt and Phog tune in together for KU home games to check on what they wrought.

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