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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Happy holidays: Ben McLemore cherishes visit with brother

KU freshman Ben McLemore stretches among hundreds of kids in attendance at the annual KU men's basketball clinic on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, at Allen Fieldhouse.

KU freshman Ben McLemore stretches among hundreds of kids in attendance at the annual KU men's basketball clinic on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, at Allen Fieldhouse.

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A long line of kindergarten to sixth-grade boys and girls stretched from the southeast end of the Allen Fieldhouse floor all the way to the southwest end Thursday afternoon.

The 450 youths in attendance at Kansas University’s 2012 Men’s Basketball Holiday Clinic made it clear that one of their favorite players was red-shirt freshman Ben McLemore, who, along with his teammates, signed a steady stream of autographs for an hour.

“A couple people were telling me the line was longer than coach (Bill) Self’s (line). I don’t believe that, but everybody kept telling me that,” McLemore said with a smile.

The 6-foot-5 St. Louis native returned to Lawrence on Wednesday afternoon after a relaxing 31⁄2-day Christmas vacation. He acknowledges the best present he received was not one of the wrapped gifts sitting under his mom’s Christmas tree.

The gift he’ll cherish forever was the opportunity to visit big brother Keith Scott, who is locked up in maximum-security Potosi Correctional Center in Mineral Springs, Mo. Scott, who is eight years older than Ben, celebrated his birthday on Christmas Day. He has been in jail for five years.

“It made my Christmas,” McLemore said of being granted an audience with his 28-year-old brother Sunday. “It was great seeing him. I didn’t get a chance to talk a lot with him. The thing I’m grateful for is getting to go out there and see him. I think he was even more happy to see me than I was to see him.

“He told me to keep my head up, just keep playing, keep doing what I’m doing, to have fun out there. That’s what I’ve been doing.”

McLemore and his teammates had a blast Thursday, taking part in drills with the youths at the clinic, which was held in the fieldhouse and the Jayhawks’ practice facility.

“It’s great taking time out of our day to get to play with the kids and have fun,” McLemore said.

In speaking with the campers, Self gushed about the ability of the high-flying McLemore, who leads KU in scoring (16.5 ppg) and is third in rebounding (5.7 rpg) entering Saturday’s 7 p.m. home game against American University.

“He has a chance to have his jersey hung up there,” Self said, pointing to the south rafters of the fieldhouse. “He’s that talented. He’s an even better kid.”

Self’s birthday: The campers sang “Happy Birthday” to Self at the urging of KU senior point guard Elijah Johnson. Self celebrated birthday No. 50 on Thursday.

“I turned 40 this year. It’s embarrassing to say that I turned 40,” Self said with a smile. “I used to be a young coach. Now I’m one of the oldest coaches around. Birthdays, I guess, when you get to be on the downward half or spiral or whatever it is ... I guess birthdays are great because it means you are still having them. I’ll take it and go with that.”

Self, who is in his 20th overall season as a coach, has 486 victories (against 159 losses). Recently, SI.com’s Andy Glockner wrote that KU’s Self has the best chance of any active coach to catch Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski as college basketball’s all-time winningest coach. Krzyzewski has 938 victories.

“Zero,” Self said, asked the odds of him catching Coach K. “Whoever wrote that doesn’t know me very well. I don’t think I’ll want to coach near that long. But if you coach at a place like Kansas, you are going to win a lot of games, that’s for sure.”

Asked if he likes being “in the conversation” for all-time winningest coach, Self said: “Nobody is mentioning me in the conversation. That’s one guy. Trust me, that’s not anyone’s topic of conversation, at least any meaningful conversation.”

Norm’s joke: KU assistant coach Norm Roberts came up with a lighthearted jab of Self on his birthday: “I think he looks pretty good for a 60-, 70-year-old guy. He has kept himself up. He’s got it put together pretty well.”

Wesley update: KU junior forward Justin Wesley, who broke the little finger on his left hand on Dec. 13, might be ready to play in the Temple game on Jan. 6.

“He has a splint on his finger. Hopefully he can start noncontact (drills) immediately and be out there with contact hopefully within a week,” Self said.

Self on KU’s first two practices since the end of holiday break: “Both were marginal at best, not a lot of energy,” he said. “The best thing we got out of it is some conditioning.

“Jeff is not back yet,” he added of senior Jeff Withey, who Thursday attended the memorial service for his grandmother in California. He should be able to practice today. “I would not say great practices by any stretch, but it’s good to have them back together. Attitudes are good, but we haven’t gotten better the last two days.”

More on McLemore’s draft stock: NBAdraft.net, which currently has McLemore being taken No. 3 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, wrote Wednesday that it’s possible he could vault to No. 1. He’d be the first shooting guard taken No. 1 overall since Austin Carr in 1971.

“If McLemore can continue his rate of improvement and learns how to further impose his will on the game, by the time draft day rolls around, anything is possible. In a draft with no clear cut No. 1 pick, a shooting guard such as McLemore has a legitimate chance to be the top overall pick, something we have not seen in 40 years,” Greg Sandler of nbadraft.net wrote.

Draftexpress.com currently has McLemore being picked No. 10 overall and Withey No. 25. NBAdraft.net has Withey going No. 30 overall.

Comments

Emery 1 year, 11 months ago

So long, it's Ben good to know you.

Jedhawk 1 year, 11 months ago

It will be for a while still. We haven't even entered conference play.

Emery 1 year, 11 months ago

I would love for Ben to stay another year at KU. But I think that may be wishful thinking. I will enjoy watching him play the rest of the year.

Joseph Kuebel 1 year, 11 months ago

Happy Bday coach Self! A great guy! I remember seein him at Backyard Burger and just being in awe. I mustered out a, "How ya doin today". He said , "Good"... He had a smile on his face, seemingly just getting a kick out of my reaction. That was in '04 (before he had a title or 8 straight conference titles under his belt)... Utmost respect for Coach Self... Mind you this after I met Michael Jordan on March 18, 1998 (a Wednesday). At the MJ restaurant in Chicago... 2 of my all-time favorite B-ball idols without question.

Ben, if you do leave just remember your time in Lawrence when your done! We need a representative like you to bring more top quality talent to L-town. I will cherish having seen you rep the uni so well. KU needs another top NBA player representing us in the league. Good story about his bro, too. F.O.E.

Eliott Reeder 1 year, 11 months ago

I saw Self and Kurtis and Doc eating lunch yesterday at El Mezcal. Self sure loves his mexican food! Wish I had known it was his birthday, I would have sent over a round of tequila shots! ;)

KU79 1 year, 11 months ago

Coach was cheating on the Iguana? ;-)

monkeehawkSL8 1 year, 11 months ago

Saying goodbye to Ben in late december is like a couple discussing their divorce at their wedding reception. Forgive me, I'm not trying to pour water on your heart felt emotion and respect for this young man's future.

However, there is a lot of high caliber, rim rattling, Jayhawk hoop left to be played. Be here now, be here now.......

I know very few agree with me, unless the Hawks win the N.C. this year it would not surprise me if he came back. Ben is a rare find and fine young man. Stranger things have happend. monk

HawkKlaw 1 year, 11 months ago

I don't think it matters if KU wins the NC or not. Ben has already been in college a year longer than he thought he'd be. He has the chance to be a superstar in the NBA after this season. The most we can hope for is one great year from the kid (he's delivering big time so far).

Beate Williams 1 year, 11 months ago

Here is one that agrees totally. Maybe I'm sick.

jgkojak 1 year, 11 months ago

It would be irresponsible for Bill Self to let him stay - if he's projected Top 3 in the draft, Bill should demand he leave - that is turning down 10+million dollars vs. injury - Mc could even suffer a minor injury (think Elijah or Selby) that slows him down and plummets his draft stock. No - when you are Top 3 -- you go.

Jack Wilson 1 year, 11 months ago

+1 on HawkKlaw and jgkojak.. it would be coaching malpractice for Self not to push him out the door if he's consensus top 5 pick. You have to do it. But we can enjoy this short ride.

Robin Smith 1 year, 11 months ago

Crazier things HAVE happened: Duncan came back.

That being said, I would put money on him leaving :D

Personally, I would stay in school, but then, I'm an oddball

AsadZ 1 year, 11 months ago

Times have changed and landscape is very different now than when Duncan came in the league.

If he is a top 10 pick I'd root for him to go. He will still be doing a lot good for KU BB as a lottery pick.

ccarp 1 year, 11 months ago

Happy Birthday Coach and keep soaring Ben!

REHawk 1 year, 11 months ago

Keep your head up, Ben. Keep doin' what you're doin', and keep havin' fun. You've earned a following that would stretch, hand to hand, all the way from St. Louis to Eastern Colorado.

REHawk 1 year, 11 months ago

Happy Birthday, Bill. Don't let those numbers slow you down. Defend, Defend!

REHawk 1 year, 11 months ago

I'd wager a musty old ten dollar bill that Jeff Withey goes sooner than #30 in the draft.

akgjenkintown 1 year, 11 months ago

The NBA (which is boring relative to the team basketball played in college) prefers post players who are big, strong and athletic. Jeff is tall and a great shot blocker. He will never be big or strong or a banger in the NBA. He will have a place in the NBA but not likely as a starter. So it is unlikely many teams would use a high draft choice on a player with limited offense who will provide some minutes off the bench.

Kevin Huffman 1 year, 11 months ago

still probably higher than 30th I think. One of the contending teams is always lacking a shot-blocking spot-minute Center. Heck, even the Heat could use him....of course they'd actually be around 30th. I could envision a team like Boston taking him. And they'd be somewhere in the 20's.

Beate Williams 1 year, 11 months ago

There was talk the other day about Withey's size but I think he has shown his strength and I believe he will get stronger over the next year. Simply because he is thin does not mean he is not stronger and cannot get stronger. If Withey is still around--a 7 footer, with good foot work and excellent shot blocking skills--at #30 there are several GMs that need to be fired because they obviously don't know their jobs.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 11 months ago

But doesn't it seem like NBA scouts are actually dumber than die-hard college basketball fans?

For example...did anyone on this board actually think Xavier Henry, Josh Selby, or Cole Aldrich would be very good in the NBA? I think we all knew Cole Aldrich wouldn't amount to much. And none of these players were ready...in any capacity...for the pros. But the scouts deemed them ready.

Is that because we watch them game in and game out? Or is there absolutely no merit to what I am suggesting?

April13 1 year, 11 months ago

I need articles like these to remind of how lucky I am in my own life and to remind me of how much good can be achieved through organized athletics.

For all of the bad things that surround the NCAA and it's members, the bottom line is that a fine young man is going to be able to change his life based on his ability, his work ethic and the opportunity provided him to display his talents.

It seems like every 8 or 10 years, KU has a kid with a challenging background like this and it warms my heart to know that our university is helping these young men achieve their dreams.

One request Ben: before you leave, how about adding another NC banner in Allen?

Phil Leister 1 year, 11 months ago

I think we see stories like this far more often than 8 or 10 years.

April13 1 year, 11 months ago

Some people have a knack for finding a negative in any comment. Congratulations captain jerk face.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 11 months ago

I would have never thought of Jeff Withey as a first-round draft pick. But the guy has impressed, especially on defense. The guy is a defensive force inside, and the commentators are correct...his footwork and body control on that end is incredible for a guy his size.

I mean...he's no Eric Chenowith, but.........

FearlessJayhawk 1 year, 11 months ago

Since this will be BM's last year at good ole KU, I just hope he makes the most of it because some day he will look back and wished he would have spent more time here.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 11 months ago

Some day...a long, long time from now. In the meantime, I think he'll be ok with that multi-million dollar lottery contract.

Boouk 1 year, 11 months ago

Self will tell him to leave, like Self did with Robinson and Aldrich.

Ron Franklin 1 year, 11 months ago

Happy Birthday, Bill! We are lucky to have you!

What does it do for Self & KU recruiting if McLemore goes #1?

Also, Am I the only one who thinks McLemore has striking similarities to Jamie Foxx?

Rock Chalk

madamhawk 1 year, 11 months ago

You're not the only one. I am waiting for him to say "Haaayyy" (Wanda's voice) in an interview.

Phoggie_Thinking 1 year, 11 months ago

Absolutely no way Withey is still there at 30. Both he and Ben will be lottery I think, but Withey will not last to 20 in the draft.

Boouk 1 year, 11 months ago

What's really hurting his stock is his age (23). If he was 20 he'd probably be considered a lottery pick right now.

Scott Smetana 1 year, 11 months ago

First, I can't blame BMac for going pro as a top 5 pick. However, the stupid NBA should have an age limit of 21. These kids are not ready for that rockstar lifestyle.

Also, BMac still has a lot to develop and would grow leaps and bounds as a player, student, and person under Self. No one will care for him in the NBA except those who hope to make a buck off of him.

As amazing as he is, he needs work in the lane and will play only 10 min /game next year averaging about 5 points.

Stupid NBA.

dylans 1 year, 11 months ago

You must be 16 to work in the salt mines and you can't earn millions until you are at least 21. Give me all your money Zuckerberg (28 years 7-9 billion) because you started earning too young.

jgkojak 1 year, 11 months ago

Agree on the 21 rule - they shouldn't be babysitters - if these guys can't hack college, they can do the NBA-DL - if the scouts were any good, they'd be able to pick these guys out of that crowd. It doesn't do anybody any good to have these guys come into the league with no coaching and fundamentals at a high level.

I'd be in favor of allowing teams to draft out of HS - but you can't play a minute until 21 - for the guys who really can't hack college - that gives them an out - prove their play in the NBA. Though isn't that what Boise St is for?

jayhawkinnc 1 year, 11 months ago

I think Ben might come back for another year. He's said publicly how much he enjoys school and likes to learn. He's had over a 3.0 GPA each semester he's been at KU. But you never know.

It bothers me that Self says he "won't want to coach near that long" when asked about someday catching Coach K. Bill's only 50....Coach K is 65 and not showing any signs of slowing down. Come on Bill.......you know that coaching is in your blood until at least your late 60's!!!

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 11 months ago

I wish that were the case. He might enjoy school, but getting those dollar signs waived in your face changes things.

Ben McLemore will be a solid NBA player. Personally, professionally, he has nothing to gain by staying in college another year.

But wouldn't it be great to get him back?

Boouk 1 year, 11 months ago

Self will tell him he should leave like he did with Robinson and Aldrich. Not force him out like Calipari, but tell him it would be best for him to declare for the draft.

John Randall 1 year, 11 months ago

I think those $igns will be waving rather than waiving, and it's just plain silly to say another year at KU would be for nothing. Granted, an early start in The League wouldn't be for nothing either. Maybe we should quit pontificating and let him make his own decision when the time comes.

Jim Roth 1 year, 11 months ago

If he averages 30 wins per year, Self needs >15 years to catch coach K....after K stops coaching (assuming Duke also averages 30 wins until then). It's do-able, but sustaining that high level of excellence must be exhausting.

KGphoto 1 year, 11 months ago

One thing that isn't talked about very much during draft discussions, is that second contract.

Guys who enter the draft too early so they can guarantee being a millionaire are not wrong for doing so, but may be leaving millions more on the table when that second contract comes around. (Or doesn't come around) Guys like Aldrich, Henry and even the Morri are making millions, but if they'd stayed another year they may have improved enough to be starters in the NBA, locking in a big second contract that can push into even bigger contracts the longer they stay in the league. As it stands, they will likely get lower-end second contracts, and may walk under the line of NBA career starter, and be NBA journeymen instead. Big, big income difference by the time you retire.

Even if you subtract the first year for staying in college, the difference could easily reach tens of millions of dollars. I'm no expert. I know there are many details such as team options, qualifying offers etc., but certainly there us a $$ risk in going too early, just as there is for waiting too long.

Hey, if you're top 5, you probably just take it. But if you are not, and you think you have a better chance of improving while playing important minutes with one of the greatest coaches in America, you better think real hard about that future.

dylans 1 year, 11 months ago

I agree to a point. I believe that Aldrich would have been exposed had he stuck around another year and his draft stock would've fallen. Guaranteed money (1st round pick) probably shouldn't be turned down. The Morri would have had a lateral move in the draft, but may have improved enough (with another year in school) to get a better second contract. Selby would have made much more up front had he stayed one more year IMHO. If the draft were today McLemore should leave. He would go in the lottery and possibly as a top 5 pick. I feel like he could grow as a person and player more in school. However, if he were to get hurt, if there was more talent in the next draft, or if he didn't improve/ backslid with all the inexperienced players around him next season, he would loose millions up front. You have to take the big payday when it comes.

KGphoto 1 year, 11 months ago

Absolutely there are risks at both ends. However you don't have to do anything, including taking the big payday if it means losing a bigger payday later.

It's just a thought. And there are plenty of examples in the NBA of guys who have both benefitted and lost on this tough decision.

Mostly I'm thinking the kid and his coach really need to decide if they think he is ready to start in the NBA right now, and does he have a chance to improve enough in a year to really elevate his game to cross the line from journeyman to starter.

With Ben I think Self will tell you he's ready. And I agree. But if he drops off a little, the question will arise again.

dylans 1 year, 11 months ago

Just from a risk reward analysis I would say anyone worthy of a lottery pick should leave regardless of future possible earnings. I think our opinions are pretty close. The selfish fan in me wants every kid to stay four years. But I feel as though the player better take the money while he can. Health is never guaranteed.

AsadZ 1 year, 11 months ago

KG, It depends on the players. IMO staying an extra year would have been great for X, Selby, Julian but not so for Cole and Twins.

I agree with dylans in that Cole and Twins were juniors already and would not have gained much in terms of BB skills that would significantly increase their NBA careers.

KGphoto 1 year, 11 months ago

Without a doubt it depends on the player. Dwayne Wade came out early, played well and got a $10 million/year raise. At least one of the Morri might find it difficult to secure a second contract at all.

jaycard 1 year, 11 months ago

Coach is a class act in all respects. When my son graduated in 2008, (the best year in KU sports history according to him), I spotted Coach Self milling around at the bottom of the hill near the stadium, looking like a tourist...old KU hat, cargo shorts and T-shirt, I hardly recognized him. Nervously approaching him, worrying about a Bobby Knightesh response, I asked Coach if he would mind if he posed for a picture with my son and his two friends. Coach Self jovially acquiesced, shaking my hand and those of the recent graduates, who were almost frozen in place with wilting nerves. What a guy. He even struck up a short conversation, having recognized the Dad of one of my son's friends. Needless to say, that picture is framed in a KU graduation portfolio on my son's wall. I repeat, a top notch individual is Bill Self!

mikehawk 1 year, 11 months ago

Coach is grounded, is a family man, loyal, and has solid values in every way. He is basically a 'good ole boy" from Oklahoma who is one heck of a coach and person. In fact, he is such a good person, he will tell Ben he has to go in the draft to take care of his future and his family's future, and can't risk injury by staying an extra year. Let's enjoy the ride with Ben this year and now. It is a sweet one and getting sweeter every day.

actorman 1 year, 11 months ago

I'll always remember one of the things I read about Self when he first came to KU. He had been saying goodbye to one of the reporters in Illinois and had tears in his eyes as he told the reporter how much he would miss him and his family. Somehow I can't picture Bob Knight (or, for that matter, virtually any other coach in America) having that type of conversation.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 11 months ago

If nothing else, Withey could have a fullfilling career in Europe. Look at Sasha Kaun in Russia.

jaybate 1 year, 11 months ago

Ben should stay a year to polish how he works within a complicated offence and polish his put it on the deck game. He still never feels like money except on dunks.

At the same time he should go to secure the money.

The call is his.

But if he goes now he risks becoming a face in the crowd in Sternville.

And if he doesn't, he risks an injury.

Still, a good choice to make.

Tony Bandle 1 year, 11 months ago

Ben will do what he has always done...think of the best way he can help others. He will take the NBA and the millions to take care of his family.

Whichever team has the brains to draft him will get a young man whose personality, heart and love of life eclipses 75% of the NBA pros.

Being a fellow St.Louisan, I can vouch for the fact that Ben is every bit the good man he seems to be. It will be a great sacrifice for him to leave Kansas, his dream team since he was in grade school...but he'll do what he has to do.

Always has...always will!!

Jack Wilson 1 year, 11 months ago

Just out .. Joel Embiid ranked #37 by Rivals in the new rankings. We now have 4 in the top 40.

Greene #25

Selden #26

Frankamp #31

Embiid #37

Mason #134

http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/basketball/recruiting/rankings/rank-2752

bradynsdad 1 year, 11 months ago

HEM frankcamp is much better than his ranking. I wasn't buying into him until I saw him play about a week ago. The kid will challenge Tharpe and Rio for starting point guard. I knew he was pretty good when he lead the USA team in scoring but I thought he could only shoot. I was wrong He should move up to the top 10. Buy stock in frankcamp right now, it will pay off.

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