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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kansas’ Ben McLemore headed home

KU freshman hopes to show teammates Gateway Arch during NCAA Tourney trip to St. Louis

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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Ben McLemore sat with his buddy — fellow ineligible Kansas University freshman Jamari Traylor — just a few rows behind the Jayhawk bench, cheering wildly during the latter stages of a 63-60 second-round NCAA Midwest Regional victory over Purdue on Sunday in Omaha’s CenturyLink Center.

Though KU trailed by as many as 11 points the first half, nine with 14 minutes left, three with 1:58 to play and one point with 59.9 seconds remaining, losing was the last thing on the Jayhawks’ minds.

“No one was thinking about that,” McLemore said. “We were thinking about moving forward, getting stops and scoring. I never thought we were going to lose.”

Thanks mainly to some late-game heroics by Elijah Johnson, Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson, the Jayhawks (29-6) did win and now advance to a Sweet 16 game against North Carolina State (24-12) at 9:17 p.m. Friday at the Edward Jones Dome in McLemore’s hometown of St. Louis.

“I mean, I am so proud of them,” McLemore said of his teammates, “and happy we get to go back to Lawrence and practice together again.

“It’s just a good feeling,” added McLemore, who along with the 6-8 Traylor has been able to practice all second semester but not play in games until next season in accordance with NCAA rules.

As one might expect, McLemore is fired up about making the short trip down I-70 to watch his teammates continue their postseason run.

“It’s great to go home, for us to go home, for me to go home,” the 6-foot-5, 185-pound McLemore said with a smile. “It’s spring break now. I’ll be happy to go home and see my family.

“It’s definitely a dream come true,” he added of the Jayhawks playing in St. Louis. “Hopefully we can do it next year, too, the same way. It’s not about going to St. Louis, it’s about us getting this win.”

The Jayhawks obviously won’t have much free time in St. Louis, but if given a chance, he plans to be a walking tour guide.

“I mean, everybody should know about the Arch,” he said of the Gateway Arch. “It’s mainly what we are known for. I might be able to take some of the players down to the Arch.

“You can go up there,” he added of taking a ride to the top. “They’ve got exhibits inside the Arch, too. Everybody loves going there when they visit St. Louis. It’s a good atmosphere there.”

McLemore was stumped when asked who he’d rank as the greatest athlete in St. Louis history.

“There have been so many,” he said.

He was able to quickly come up with his favorite pro player in St. Louis annals.

“I’ll give it to Larry Hughes (former NBA forward waived by Orlando on Feb. 1). I’ve met him before. I think he’s one of the greatest players to come out of St. Louis,” McLemore said.

McLemore — he averaged 28.3 points and 12.7 rebounds and 6.2 assists a game his junior year at St. Louis’ Wellston High before playing at Oak Hill Academy and Christian Life Center in Houston his senior year — is eager to play in his first game for the Jayhawks in 2012-13.

“Next year will be fun. I can’t wait,” he said. “Tyshawn (Taylor), (Conner) Teahan and maybe T-Rob (Thomas Robinson) will be gone, but Elijah (Johnson), Travis (Releford), Jamari ... we’ll all be coming together. We have a great recruiting class coming in. I think it’ll be a great season.

“Jamari and I are playing well (at practice),” he added. We’ve tried to help the team get better every day. Mainly I’m guarding Tyshawn and Elijah and Conner and Travis Releford. Sometimes I guard the big men. I’m learning a lot, definitely.”

KU coach Bill Self has said the two have been great for the Red team — the scout team — at practice.

“I said today I wonder if it’s a coincidence we got better in the last eight weeks because those two are practicing,” Self said recently of McLemore and Traylor. “You can’t take possessions off (because of the active duo). They try hard and hold you accountable. They’ve helped our team.

“It’s unfortunate both had to deal with this,” he added of being ruled partial qualifiers. “We thought both had legitimate cases. The NCAA did make the ruling they did. Based on the ruling (sitting out first semester, practicing second), the two have done a good job making the most of it, turning a supposed negative into a positive, knowing they will have four (years) to play four left. Both have well above 3.0s (grade-point averages). If they stay four years, it almost certainly guarantees graduation. I think they spun it into a positive the best they can.

“The kids see themselves having some success, studying hard, with the right tutorial system, it’s great. I think this will be good for their lives the way it’s played out.”

Of their ability, Self said: “Talking raw athletes, Justin (Wesley) and Elijah (may be best on team) and Tyshawn is fastest. Ben and Jamari may be equals or better than those guys. They will give us an element of athleticism.”

T-Rob a finalist: KU junior Thomas Robinson is one of four finalists for Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year presented by AT&T, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced Monday. Other finalists: Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis, Michigan State senior Draymond Green and Creighton sophomore Doug McDermott.

Next up: The No. 2-seeded Jayhawks on Friday will meet a red-hot No. 11-seed North Carolina State team that has won six of its last seven games, including Sunday’s 66-64 second-round win over No. 3-seed Georgetown.

N.C. State is 24-12 overall under first-year coach Mark Gottfried, nephew of former KU football coach Mike Gottfried. The squad went 15-16 a year ago under Sidney Lowe.

“They’ve been playing great the last couple of games. Man, they are on a roll now,” KU junior Jeff Withey said of the team that beat San Diego State, 79-65, in the first round. “It will be tough going against them. They beat Georgetown and are on a roll. We have a week to get prepared for them and to get ready.”

Never give up: Releford said the Jayhawks’ come-from-behind win over Purdue was especially satisfying.

“We competed and didn’t give up,” he said. “Getting close and them taking the lead again late, we had to continue to fight through it. It’s great. Another weekend of playing ball, another week of practicing and getting after it. That sounds great.”

Comments

ajhk 2 years ago

gotta love Eero Saarinen's stuff. His bad was the shiznit too.

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Priest Fontaine 2 years ago

jayhawkers! check out this hilarious short film my friends in KC made: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=...

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Pork_Ribs 2 years ago

Everyone at the LJW is laughing at all the posts about the headline. All they see are readers taking the bait as planned. The negative reactions simply reinforces their motivation to continue tactics like this to get us to read their articles. Expect more of the same. Should we really expect anything less though?

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Lance Hobson 2 years ago

Great article, but I'm clearly not the onlly one who was completely bummed out when I read the headline. Please change it.

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jayhawker_97 2 years ago

maaaan... vs NCState, is where we could really use BMac. damn NCAA committee, damn it!! i'm not even sure if i'll be around next year..

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trobpoy 2 years ago

I really thoug bmac got in som trouble when i read the headline. phew

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John Randall 2 years ago

""" ... McLemore, who along with the 6-8 Traylor has been able to practice all second semester but not play in games until next season in accordance with NCAA rules. """

One more time, the NCAA ruling on these two and Braeden Anderson as well, was "partially qualified." That was a CYA position taken by the NCAA, ostensibly because they each attended more than two high schools, though there was no academic or other reason to disqualify them.

The Big12 requires "partial qualifiers" to establish eligibility for a year, so the NCAA was able to use this tactic against a high-profile program as a way to threaten the agents/runners/AAU/prep schools who exploit these guys.

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Tony Bandle 2 years ago

BenMac....c'mon. as a fellow St.Louisan, you know everybody goes to the Arch.

Take the Hawks to true St.Louis monuments..Ted Drewes Frozen Custard on Watson Road and any Eat-Rite Diner you can find!!! [Just make sure it isn't on a game day]

Honorable Mentions: 1] Toasted ravioli at Zia's on The Hill 2] The City Museum 3] The St.Louis Zoo 4] The Butterfly House in Chesterfield. 5] Fortell's Pizza on Mackenzie Blvd

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kdeutch 2 years ago

I don't know if everyone knows that you can vote for TRob at this site for Naismith Award:

http://www.ncaa.com/naismithvote

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Dan Pawlowski 2 years ago

Don't get your bvd's/and or panties in a bunch folks. Read the sub text (text below the headline). What you should be doing is going to http://www.ncaa.com/naismithvote/ and voting for T-ROB. He deserves the award named after the inventor and our first coach! If he doesn't win it , that would be something to pinch your cheeks about!

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jaybate 2 years ago

With Tyshawn, Thomas and Conner gone, that nucleus of KU players that have both been through Self's toughening box and through the wars are going to be:

EJ, Travis, Jeff, Kevin and Justin.

These are the guys proven to be able to take the withering criticism of Self, learn the thousand page play book, learn the scouting reports, and meet the minimum standards: defend at D1 speeds on ball, help defend at D1 speeds off ball, protect, feed the post/receive the post feed, and play injured.

If you have more talent, and can meet the minimum standards, you may start ahead of these guys, but when the hairs get short, and the stakes get high, when what is needed are stops, which is any time KU's behind, or only a 3 up, then EJ, Travis, Jeff, Kevin, and Justin are going to be tough to keep out of the line up, no matter how many starts BenMac and Jamari have, and no matter how many stars and MCDs the recruits have.

Its war out there.

If you haven't done your job, when the bullets are flying, you may have to step aside for those that have.

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jaybate 2 years ago

Self keeps talking about Justin's raw athletic ability being off the charts.

I have to suspect that Justin next season will likely be ready to start combining the learning with the athleticism and surprising people.

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jaybate 2 years ago

Jamari is already feeling competitive.

He did not mention Jeff Withey's name. :-)

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REHawk 2 years ago

Speaking of controversial journalistic license, did y'all catch that bit about Bad Bad Bobby Knight and his weekend commentary on ESPN cuts, his refusal to say the word Kentucky? He referred to the Wildcats as "that team from the SEC." HA!

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Ryan Sullivan 2 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Benjamin Piehler 2 years ago

"I'm in St. Louis, and I can see the arch from here. No, wait. Thats a half burned down McDonalds."

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eastTXjayhawk 2 years ago

are y'all serious? Surely you knew Ben is from St. Louis, the same place we're playing this Friday...it never crossed my mind he was leaving (he's been [no pun] through the toughest part already.)

i guess we're all de-tuned for bad news...

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packywacky88 2 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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mikehawk 2 years ago

Reading through the blog reactions to the headline, I guess I'm not the only one who needs to get a life. Especially this time of year with the Hawks still alive.

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katiekelley 2 years ago

How are his grades looking?

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Clarence Haynes 2 years ago

Ben, there was another pretty good BBall player from St. Louis by the name of Joseph Henry White AKA Jo Jo White. I need not say more my man but hopefully, in addition to Hughes (who undoubtedly had game), you will put Jo Jo in your repetiore of great players from Louie!

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REHawk 2 years ago

BenMac, do you catch the feeling that the Jayhawk Nation waits with breathless enthusiasm for your appearance in games next season? Great to read Bill Self's high regard for the input you and Jamari already have invested in the improvement of our current squad. The two of you will be familiar names and faces when you come bounding through the tunnel in Jayhawk uniforms. Thanks for hanging tight, making the most of your KU scholarship and performing opportunity. Gary Bedore and editorial staff at LJW, I like the headline, esp. because its possible portent rocked me onto my heels. Very clever eyecatching use of the king's verbiage.

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kkoenig 2 years ago

After the Purdue game Thomas Robinson was asked about having to guard Hummel and, following switches on screens, some of the Purdue guards. He said he'd been forced to guard Ben McLemore in practice quite a bit and that we'd all be surprised at how good he is & will be. Self's been hinting at the same thing for a while.

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RockChalk26 2 years ago

My levels of anticipation and excitement for Ben are through the roof. I think he will be a stud next year.

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nuleafjhawk 2 years ago

I'm just thankful that they clarified it was * KANSAS' * Ben McLemore, as opposed to the hundreds of other Ben McLemores that us KU fans might be interested in.

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Displayhawk 2 years ago

On a completely different track, I'm glad Colorado went to the Pac 12, because Tad Boyle is building a good team out there and they won't be easy to beat in the coming years! He is getting some pretty good recruits from the looks of it, and knows what to do with them too.

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Jack Wilson 2 years ago

Remember, the author of the article/column probably didn't write the headline. And it wasn't a capital offense. The subheadline cleared up any possible confusion. At most, there was 3 seconds of confusion.

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Kent Richardson 2 years ago

Sometimes things like this portend an actual event. We may need Martha and the Vandella's to issue a remake of Jimmy Mack.

Benny Mac, oh Benny Oh Benny Mac, are you coming back?

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NotOstertag 2 years ago

The headline is so bad that it makes me wonder if it wasn't intentional. Websites make money by selling ads, and the more traffic you get to the site, the more ads they serve, and the more money they make.

So a CLEAR headline like, "McLemore Excited for KU's Trip to His Hometown" would probably result in lots of people skipping over the story since it's essentially a fluff peice with no real news.

Instead, the "geniuses" at the LJW throw out an intentionally deceptive headline that implies that McLemore is somehow splitting from the team and BOOM every visitor has to go to the story and read about 6 paragraphs in before they realize that they've been duped.

You've witnessed the schlock journalism equivalent to yelling "fire" in a theater.

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Jeffery Barrett 2 years ago

My guess is Gary didn't write the headline.

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Martin Rosenblum 2 years ago

Gary must be reading those grocery store magazine covers like the Enquirer. Their headlines are designed to play to the emotions of suckers who need drama in their lives. We have enough drama just dealing with our team's journey through the season and post season.

We'll read every article. Don't worry, just entertain us with facts and information we wouldn't get anywhere else and we'll be satisfied. Unless Tysawn fathers a two headed, 26 pound alien baby with a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, we just want the facts!

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Katy Shaflestad 2 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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bbeckum 2 years ago

I know this is off topic and may have been beat to death already, but...

It's been interesting to hear the pundits talk about the increasingly narrow gap between the mid-majors and the majors. Judging by the play and talent level, in addition to the recent success of many of these programs, I'm inclined to agree.

I think it's an overwhelmingly positive development. If this trend continues, an Ohio or Xavier will win the title one of these years and that's got to be good for college basketball. For years, those teams were first-round fodder, with the obligatory Cinderella making it to the Sweet 16 before getting sent home by KU, MSU, UNC...

Now that they're legitimate threats, the tourney is more wide-open, more unpredictable, more fun, and more better.

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Doug Cramer 2 years ago

Thought B-Mac was leaving Kansas too ! Geeze...way to scare the entire KU nation.

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JayHawkFanToo 2 years ago

I take it that most everybody reading the headline did a huge double take.

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Bangkok_Jayhawk 2 years ago

Thought the readers might like this...

I live in Thailand and am shocked at how many of my conversations, with Asians who have never been outside of Asia, are about KU basketball. Many love to ask which university I went to in the US and when I say Kansas they get excited for one of two reasons:

  1. They know all about Paul Pierce, Marios Miracle, Wilt, and even James Naismith.

  2. They want to use the line "You're not in Kansas anymore" on a real Kansan. Anyone who lives outsdie of Kansas can sympathize with me here!

On a serious note... You know you are a fan part of a special basketball program when people on the other side of the world are excited to talk KU basketball with you.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

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KirkHinrich_Range10 2 years ago

Right! I was like, "oh no don't say hes transfering!"

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Bangkok_Jayhawk 2 years ago

Thanks for the title LJW... I just peed my pants and cried at work. Very awkward.

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jayhawkinnc 2 years ago

Me too! The headline implies that he's leaving KU. Oh well, at least it got my attention and forced me to completely read the story.

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kranny 2 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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ytf23 2 years ago

Dang LJW! That headline had me worried that something bad was happening!

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