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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Keegan

Opinion: Ben McLemore inspired by Paul Pierce, LeBron James

Kansas guard Ben McLemore extends all his limbs as he defends against an inbound pass from Ohio State forward Sam Thompson during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012 at Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio.

Kansas guard Ben McLemore extends all his limbs as he defends against an inbound pass from Ohio State forward Sam Thompson during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012 at Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio.

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His spectacular plays and high-rising ways leave basketball fans enjoying watching Kansas University freshman Ben McLemore compete as much as he enjoys playing the game.

His hunger to improve is evident by how smoothly McLemore has taken to playing with the well-disciplined, experienced talent that surrounds him.

His dedication to turning his extraordinary athletic ability into productive basketball moves both predates his association to Kansas and has roots in KU basketball tradition.

“Junior year in high school, I went to LeBron James’ camp and to Paul Pierce’s camp,” McLemore said in a recent interview. “First time meeting Paul Pierce, watching his footwork and style of play, I said, ‘That’s how I play. That’s my game.’ I started moving in slow motion just like him, told myself, ‘I need to imitate his game and see how far I can go with this.’”

Funny, Pierce’s name has been coming up a lot lately in the same sentence as McLemore’s, as in, “KU’s best player since Paul Pierce.”

McLemore also has studied LeBron’s game.

“He’s such a great player, offensively and defensively, giving 110 percent every night,” McLemore said. “He’s just aggressive every night. He’s 6-8, what, 250? And he’s so quick on his feet. Awesome player. I really like his game. He’s always in attack mode. He’s strong, and he’s fast, and he’s ready to play every time.”

McLemore said the highlight of the James camp came when he played on a team that played against LeBron’s team.

“We were winning the whole game, and then he just took over,” McLemore said. “I had a smile on my face the whole camp.”

After what amounted to a most productive basketball summer school for McLemore, he set about trying to apply what he had learned.

“My senior year in high school, I tried to put those two (Pierce and James) together and play my game of basketball,” McLemore said. “I have the same mind-set of both players, and I try to put them together as me.”

Since coming to Kansas, McLemore said he has studied the game of Travis Releford, whom he calls “a great player. He knows what he’s got to bring to the team.”

McLemore is fortunate to have a rare blend of team-minded basketball students, all seniors, surrounding him in the starting lineup. Wisely, they celebrate his special talent and don’t resent it. As elite college basketball players go, Kansas has a very humble bunch this season.

Humble, yet confident. McLemore said his motto — “It’s OK to be great” — was given him by an AAU coach, Darius Cobb.

It’s better than OK to watch impending greatness in an athlete playing so far above the rim while lifting his team up toward rarefied air.

Comments

Ron Franklin 1 year, 10 months ago

I Hope we get more than one year of watching this kid at KU.

andersonalex 1 year, 10 months ago

Better yet, make so much of the rest of your life that your college days become entirely unremarkable.

Jason Keller 1 year, 10 months ago

Not me, besides the fact that he is is ready and deserves it, I'd rather see KU prove that they can prepare the right type of kid for the NBA in one year. There is nothing wrong with OAD, you just don't want a roster full of them.

Steve Gantz 1 year, 10 months ago

Really? Although I want to see our kids succeed in the League, it matters much less to me than seeing KU get to Final Fours and win championships. I'm a selfish fan I guess, but I want him here. I'm sure it won't happen however.

texashawk10 1 year, 10 months ago

Ben McLemore succeeding in the NBA helps KU significantly in recruiting which in turn helps KU get to more Final Fours and getting to more Final Fours leads to winning more championships. If Bill Self can walk into a kid's living room and say, "Look at the success our players have had in the NBA, come to KU and you will have a better opportunity to be an NBA star than if you went to (fill in the blank)." That is what Ben McLemore having immediate success in the NBA can do for KU in the future.

Robert Brock 1 year, 10 months ago

I would like to see the NBA collapse. The League is a creepy disease.

Chris1955 1 year, 10 months ago

I've always contended that the NBA is a fixed game league. About 10 years ago, my suspicions were confirmed (at least to me) in the Kings-Lakers debacle. Nobody will ever convince me that the last game of that series wasn't fixed.

jaybate 1 year, 10 months ago

Chris,

What about that particular game makes you think it was fixed? I have watched the NBA casually and never thought much about the deep politics of it. But I'm always curious about such things in sport.

Suzi Marshall 1 year, 10 months ago

It seems Ben still needs to play with more confidence to reach his potential. If he goes the the NBA, as is, gaining that confidence in The League will be much harder than another year at Kansas. Nevertheless, nothing is certain and I'd never advise anyone to ever pass on an opportunity to be a lottery pick!

LAJayhawk 1 year, 10 months ago

Not just lottery. The kid will be top 5, and has a shot at the number 1 pick. But forgetting that for a moment, he has such a massive amount of talent and potential, there is basically no chance he won't succeed at the next level. I'm not saying he'll be an All-Star (he might be, but I'm not saying that... yet), but he'll definitely have a long career (barring injury, of course). It's unfortunate for all of us, but taking that step makes sense for him. Enjoy it while he's here. A talent like his doesn't come around very often.

hawk316 1 year, 10 months ago

BMac, Paul Pierce stayed at KU three years before he left for the league. I'm thinking that you should emulate him in that regard, as well. Whadda ya think? Good idea, huh? Three years to perfect your game under one of the best college coaches in America. Three years in an incomparable basketball atmosphere...Lawrence, Kansas! Would that be special or what?

amatxjayhawk 1 year, 10 months ago

Didn't Paul Pierce play three years or was it two?

Michael Luby 1 year, 10 months ago

Im pretty sure Paul was a Junior when he left for the Celtics. I also hope Ben sticks around for atleast another year. Especially if they dont win it all this year. He is definitely the best freshmen since The Truth.

KGphoto 1 year, 10 months ago

He played three. He came back after flirting with the draft after his sophomore season. He and LaFrentz (a junior) both decided to stay another year. It was a big deal. I still have the KC Star. Front page. "Stayhawks".

LAJayhawk 1 year, 10 months ago

Yep, then lost to Rhode Island.... [sigh]

Will Babbit 1 year, 10 months ago

Then went to the NBA only to miss most of the season because of the lockout...

MinnesotaJay 1 year, 10 months ago

"It’s better than OK to watch impending greatness in an athlete playing so far above the rim while lifting his team up toward rarefied air."

Special!

KULA 1 year, 10 months ago

I'd love to see how good Ben could become with another year here, but if he's gonna be a top ten lottery pick, it wouldn't be wise to spend another year in college and take a chance on an injury. With the short career pro athletes already have, every year in college can cost them literally millions.

And as for Paul, I remember draft day (after his junior year, and I think Roy's first player to leave early). As he dropped to 10th, after being expected to go much earlier, you could see the hurt in his eyes with each passing pick. You had to feel for him. But boy did he prove all those GM's wrong. Anyone remember some of the players who were picked ahead of him--besides Raef?

jhox 1 year, 10 months ago

As I recall, Paul hurt his own draft spot significantly by saying he wouldn't play for a certain team who wanted to take him higher (in the two spot maybe?)

It worked out well for him though. Not many guys get to spend their whole career in one place, and he'll walk away with at least one championship.

I'll be shocked if Ben doesn't go in the top 3, and not surprised if he even goes number 1 overall. He has the length, athleticism and skill that the NBA covets and, by all accounts he's a great kid and a great teammate. Don't fret over losing him though. Next year well have the Wayne Selden show coming to Lawrence, and that should be pretty impressive as well.

kufaninmo 1 year, 10 months ago

Could u even begin to imagine the insanity of having Selden AND Bmac!? Shiiiiiiiiiyet...

archercc 1 year, 10 months ago

In all fairness I dont know if he proved too many people wrong. You may only remember Raef because of the Kansas connection but some no-names like Mike Bibby, Vince Carter, Jason Williams and Dirk Nowitzki went ahead of him.

To be honest, falling father probably helped his image/career because he ended up on a team that could afford to build for the future. Typically the top picks go to perennially poor teams like the Clippers.

hawk_of_ages 1 year, 10 months ago

Nowitzki is the only one of those guys who turned out to be as good as Pierce. Anyone other than Dallas who passed on Paul definitely regretted it later.

Ted Hume 1 year, 10 months ago

Remember Tractor Traylor, you know, the fat guy from Michigan? yep, some idiot actually took him with Paul just sitting there all like, "what the f***?"

LAJayhawk 1 year, 10 months ago

1998 NBA Draft:

1) Michael Olowokandi (Clippers)

2) Mike Bibby (Vancouver... now the Memphis Grizzlies)

3) Raef (Nuggets)

4) Antwan Jamison (Rapters -- traded to Golden State)

5) Vince Carter (Golden State -- traded to Rapters)

6) Robert Traylor (Mavs -- traded to Bucks)

7) Jason Williams (Kings)

8) Larry Hughes (76ers)

9) Dirk Nowitzki (Bucks -- traded to Dallas)

10) Pierce (Celtics)

LAJayhawk 1 year, 10 months ago

Antwan Jamison, Vince Carter and Nowitzki are the only guys ahead of Pierce to be named to the All-Star game.

KULA 1 year, 10 months ago

Paul should've been #4. I think any of those other six GM's would gladly swap the picks they made, with the benefit of hindsight.

Sam Constance 1 year, 10 months ago

Honestly, I think you can make a solid case that Pierce should have been #1 or #2. That being with the benefit of hindsight, of course.

Because of those picks, only Nowitzki is a sure-fire Hall of Famer, and at this point I would be downright stunned if Pierce wasn't eventually put into the Hall of Fame.

I just think it's funny that there were two NBA Finals MVPs selected in the 1998 NBA Draft, and they were selected #9 and #10.

jaybate 1 year, 10 months ago

This is a great memory hole recovery. Thanks.

I knew at the time that Olowakandi and Bibby wouldn't do as well as Paul.

I wasn't sure how Raef would do. Bigs are harder for me to read than perimeter guys.

Jamison and Vince Carter I felt were dead heats with Paul.

Tractor Traylor I knew was a wasted choice.

Williams I didn't know about.

Hughes I knew was good, but Pierce played for Roy, so you knew his numbers were depressed from playing in a sharing system, so I guessed Pierce would out perform Hughes in the long run.

Nowitzki I had no clue about.

Paul Pierce was a very good college basketball player who had the kind of powerful physique and fundamentals that meant he could be a star in the NBA if he got with smart coaches. Paul has benefitted greatly from being around Ainge and Doc and others at Boston. Had Boston not brought in some smart basketball men, Pierce might have been traded instead of that UK big he used to play with and Pierce might have had to labor in obscurity with stupid coaches on below .500 teams. Luck is always involved in success. But only if you are phenomenally driven and talented.

HawksWin 1 year, 10 months ago

Great photo of Ben who looks like a hawk that is staring down at his prey, the ball!

Would someone at LJW do a follow-up story on how Ben's mom feels about KU or does she still believe he should have gone to MU? Glad he didn't listen to his mom, just this once :)

Nice article on our "precocious freshman" following the OSU game.
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/college-basketball/news/20121222/kansas-tops-ohio-state/?sct=uk_bf3_a2

KGphoto 1 year, 10 months ago

Thanks. Great article. Love this part.

"Besides Self's usual tough man-to-man defense, anchored by the nation's top shot-blocker in 7-footer Jeff Withey, the Jayhawks also have a moxie-laden group of grinders. Their experience showed yesterday when Ohio State led 31-23 with six minutes left in the first half and a roaring crowd of 19,049 threatened to blow the roof off Value City Arena.

"We have a good group of veterans that has been in tough situations before," Withey said. "We just bounced back. We just had to breathe a little bit."

"... We just had to breath a little bit." Great example of the leadership we've been looking for from Withey. This game was vulcanizing for the roster. The team looked confused early in the year, found something during the last 4-5 games and fully realized their potential last Saturday. Now, it seems, palpable leadership exists, team roles are not only identified but established, and the sky is the limit.

jaybate 1 year, 10 months ago

A super post that sniffs out the key points. We need you on telestrator for the games, if you are as good visually as verbally.

KGphoto 1 year, 10 months ago

Hey thanks. Would love to try a telestrator but I'm not as good with the Xs and Os as some of you guys. I might accidentally draw up something construed as phallic, or otherwise distasteful, that gets me fired by the network before I drew something useful. : )

jaybate 1 year, 10 months ago

Meant spatally as well as verbally. :-)

Beate Williams 1 year, 10 months ago

Paul got a bad rap and it carried on through his rookie season. Carter went to the Raptors and was on ESPN highlight all the time because of his dunks, which also won him the rookie of the year, yet Paul's season in every statistical category was better than Carter's. I really believe that Paul's skill set has been unappreciated for most of his career but when you look at what he has done he has had an outstanding career, hall of fame career, which people are finally beginning to really appreciate.

I think Paul falling so low in the draft did work out for him, going to the Celtics was probably the best thing in the world because of the history, much better than going to the Raptors, the Clippers, etc

Jonathan Allison 1 year, 10 months ago

The Celtics didn't look very good at the time and for several years that followed either. But what a reward it was for Paul to win a championship and take home the Finals MVP award.

Pierce really is underappreciated for what he's able to do. He has never been the top athlete in the NBA and now more than ever it's his disciplined approach that pays off for him night in and night out. He's got so much skill and he's always been able to use his ball skills, his footwork, and his body position to leverage himself into getting open shots at the elbows. I would have to say that getting his man down to the elbow and then using his body to separate for that quick little turnaround from 15 ft has becoming his signature.

It's really so much different from the Jordan turnaround fadeaway, which usually came from a much lower angle toward the baseline and was much of of an athletic move because of the elevations and the release angle of Jordan's body. Jordan's shot was unguardable because of the release angle, whereas Paul's shot is unguardable because of the way that he used those broad shoulders to create separation, the quickness that he is able to get it off due to his footwork, and due to the high release point of the ball.

loyal2thaphog 1 year, 10 months ago

I don't know much about Pierce's "bad rap." To my knowledge, he was in the running, and probably would have won rookie of the year had he not be stabbed 11 times in a night-club. Surprisingly, he was only out for a month, was an all-star selection,and earned the nickname "the truth."

KULA 1 year, 10 months ago

What's the meaning of "the truth"?

Didn't Paul pass Larry Bird at Boston's all time scorer last year?

Ted Hume 1 year, 10 months ago

I believe it was Shaq-Daddy himself that gave him the nickname after playing against Paul early on; as in: " Paul Pierce? - he's the M' F 'n TRUTH!"

Sam Constance 1 year, 10 months ago

Well... yes and no. Pierce did pass Larry Bird on Boston's all-time scoring list last year, but Larry Bird was never Boston's #1 all-time scorer. That title has belonged to John Havlicek, with 26,395 points scored in his career.

Paul started the season only 3,804 points away from tying Havlicek. He's historically averaged about 1,600 points scored per season (which includes the two seasons where he only played about half the total games, due to stabbing/injury), so he could still catch Hondo. Let's assume he plays a few more years at least and stays healthy in doing so. If you assume that his scoring will decline as he ages (which is extremely conservative, given that Pierce's game has never relied on extreme athleticism, so he should age well), I would still foresee him scoring at least 1,300 per season over the next few years.

He's scored 553 so far this year in 27 games. That puts him on pace to score 1,600 in the regular season alone, and only 2,200 behind Hondo. Assuming he stays healthy (knock on wood), I'd hazard a guess that Paul will surpass Hondo as the Boston Celtics' all-time leading scorer in the 2014-15 season, Paul's 17th year in the league. Of course, Hondo only needed 15 seasons to do it, but the game was much, much different in the 60s and 70s than it is now.

Paul's nickname was coined by Shaq after Pierce had scored 42 to lead the Celtics in defeating a Lakers team led by In-his-prime Shaq: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Pie...

Jonathan Allison 1 year, 10 months ago

I have to agree with Kellerman.

If BMac is back next year then that means that something has gone terribly wrong.

Only way BMac is back next year is if he his a huge slump and his draft position falls way off or if he gets injured. There is also a slight chance he could come back next year if KU has a disappointing end to the season and he wants to come back for another shot at the championship.

The best case scenario for BMac and for KU is that he leads KU to a championship, his draft stock is higher than ever and he goes to the NBA. That's the only scenario that I will hope for.

REHawk 1 year, 10 months ago

Nick Krug and Tom Keegan: Really nice photo and article. If Ben keeps a'comin', in the manner that Bill Self has projected for him, he is bound to depart after this season for a bundle of money. A player who possesses the talent to go make a successful play, even when the offense is running nothing extraordinary: a coach's dream!

REHawk 1 year, 10 months ago

In a divergent vein, if the NCAA allows, I wish Bill Self would host an open simulated game scrimmage Tuesday night. The current starters and walk-ons vs. Traylor, Ellis, Tharpe, Lucas, White and Adams. Self and his choice of assistants coach the B squad, with extended timeouts for instructional purposes. Cost for admission, a canned item for the Lawrence food pantry. I would really love to see those first year players engaged in a full 40 minutes of competitive play.

Jonathan Allison 1 year, 10 months ago

that's a great idea! Bill Self needs to make this happen.

I'd up the ante a little bit though, and say admissions is a grocery sack of non-perishible foods. If all you can do is a can of green beens then throw it in the bag and go, but most of us can do more.

Why not make it Monday night, and call it New Year's in the Phog. Have a Charity drive at halftime where dozens of non-profits can set up tables, give out freebies and take donations.

Jack Wilson 1 year, 10 months ago

McLemore seems to me like a mix between Dominique Wilkens and Ray Allen.

Sam Constance 1 year, 10 months ago

Love this idea. He has Ray's quick release and 'Nique's ability to skywalk.

actorman 1 year, 10 months ago

The one that keeps coming to mind for me is Dr. J. McLemore is so smooth that when he goes up to slam it looks like he's soaring - the way Dr. J used to do it.

FearlessJayhawk 1 year, 10 months ago

I don't have any idea what his ceiling is, but if he continues to improve and avoid injury, he will be an all-pro some day.

KGphoto 1 year, 10 months ago

I think the next Jordan will never happen. Comparisons are fine, but we never get the next anybody. Remember, for about 5-6 years NBA franchises were looking for the next Dirk Nowitzki. A footer who could do it all, but most importantly stretch the defense with 3pt shooting ability. They were scrounging through Europe thinking they would find him. Taking chances on guys. It still hasn't happened. Nobody even close.

Kobe was going to be the next Jordon. Then Lebron. They are great athletes, great winners, great NBA front men. Neither of them have Jordon's killer instinct, his drive, or even his elite all-around skill set. Close maybe, but never since Jordon have I known so surely in advance that a team would win the finals... again, and again. Riding the pure competitive drive and ability of one man.

Ben himself, in this article, has stated that his two influences are Paul Pierce and Lebron James. Good for Ben for not hoping to be the next Jordon, but instead seeing realistic similarities in two great NBA players and trying to build his own game out of those.

I'm much more on board with HEM's combo above. And would be thrilled if he achieved NBA all-star status for a handful of seasons, (maybe more) during his career, which I think is more than realistic.

Steve Reigle 1 year, 10 months ago

Several times when I've heard or read comments that McLemore reminds someone of Brandon Rush I've told my wife he reminds me more of Paul Pierce than Brandon Rush. The big difference, in my opinion, is Bill Self will give McLemore much more freedom to create than Roy Williams ever gave Paul Pierce.

KansasComet 1 year, 10 months ago

I do not see Ben McLemore as a mix of any two players nor does he remind me of anyone. I think he is the first Ben McLemore. This young man is quite unique. Never have I seen a player so talented, yet so unassuming. He is an absolute pleasure to watch. I had been hoping this young fellow would pick Kansas since he was a sophomore in High School. I was overjoyed when he decided to come to KU. I love watching his put back dunks, the way he finishes at the rim, hustles for loose balls, gets himself in great position for open looks, gets others involved and looks like he is having the time of his life out on the court. If he can graduate from KU in three years, or even come close to earning his degree with the help of summer courses, I would love for him to come back one more season as long as it is to his benefit.

jgkojak 1 year, 10 months ago

Anyone picked in the Top 5 would be a fool to stay in school, period. You are risking double-digit millions against injury (the insurance policies they take out don't match that kind of money).

It would be nice to have him again, but if he comes out and is the next NBA superstar, developed by Self at Kansas, that helps our recruiting in huge ways. Other than Mario and Rush many of our other good players have been NBA benchers recently - so it'd be good to see McLemore be the man.

Joel Thomas 1 year, 10 months ago

Some off topic comments: Apparently shoe companies do matter, though in the cited case, not enough (http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/story/20443349/battle-for-harrison-twins-really-a-contest-between-calipari-under-armour). It was tough to lose out on Kaleb Tarczewski. Finally got a look at him against SDSU. While he didn't do much, it would have been nice to have a post player one year better (assuming he'd have gotten starter's PT next year). Though Withey is showing us a post player needn't be bulky (someone said Withey disappears when he turns sideways).

AsadZ 1 year, 10 months ago

No one from UK on the list, love it.

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