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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Keegan

Opinion: Red-shirt freshman Ben McLemore jumps but nowhere near as high as his ceiling

Kansas guard Ben McLemore flashes his tongue after a put-back dunk against Emporia State during the second half, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Ben McLemore flashes his tongue after a put-back dunk against Emporia State during the second half, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self talks after 88-54 win over ESU

KU coach Bill Self talks after his team's 88-54 victory over Emporia State on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Ben McLemore, Rio Adams and Landen Lucas talk after ESU win

KU freshmen Ben McLemore, Rio Adams and Landen Lucas talk after the Jayhawks' 88-54 victory over Emporia State on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012.

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Box score

KU vs. ESU

Arms that fall so close to the floor rank as the first eye-grabber that makes your imagination race as to Kansas University red-shirt freshman Ben McLemore’s ceiling as a basketball player.

And then the game started, and McLemore made a smooth cut, received the back-door pass from Jeff Withey and flushed it 10 seconds into the game. That’s how long it took him to show he has that glide that screams “elite athlete.”

Then Ben drove and missed a shot, and in a blink was back above the rim getting the rebound. If we didn’t know about that thing called gravity, our eyes could have convinced us that he jumped a second time without ever landing. He did land, did he not? Of course he did. Right? Must have.

It’s usually a good sign when a shooter swishes a deep jumper with so little effort you could have sworn it was a 10-footer, the way McLemore did for three of his 11 points in Tuesday night’s 88-54 exhibition victory against Emporia State in packed Allen Fieldhouse.

The same soft touch McLemore showed there resurfaced early in the second half when he hit a jumper inside the free-throw line. He sprints the floor like a Big 12 wide receiver and has hands for that position as well. (Charlie Weis wasn’t there so see it, no doubt occupied by the challenge of a crash-course wishbone installation.)

All that and more makes NBA scouts salivate over the 6-foot-5 guard from St. Louis, but it was the moment midway through the second half that made 16,300 seated customers put their own jumping abilities to work. Elijah Johnson missed a three-pointer, McLemore kissed the sky and came down with a two-hand slam that made him an instant crowd favorite, which he will remain for as long or short as he calls the fieldhouse home.

The crowd-rocking slam made the score 61-36, not that anybody cared about those numbers by that point of the night.

“Coach was telling me I need to crash the boards more often,” McLemore said. “And when I had my chance to crash the boards, it came off (with) perfect timing, and I just dunked it.”

And grown men reacted the way teenagers did years ago when the Beatles crossed the ocean from Liverpool.

Power forward Jamari Traylor and McLemore sat out the first semester last year and were restricted to practice duties second semester by an NCAA ruling traced to their high school academic records. McLemore supplied the offensive highlight of the night, Traylor the defensive when he burst into a passing lane near midcourt and took the ball in for a jam.

Having an extra semester of practice compared to the rest of the freshmen for McLemore and Traylor doesn’t mean they are sophomores in the eyes of their demanding coach.

“Yeah, they looked like freshmen, but they looked like freshmen who can run and jump, though,” 10th-year Kansas coach Bill Self said. “But they looked like freshmen. They don’t know what they’re doing. But they try real hard.”

NBA scouts will make McLemore’s length-of-stay decision for him. Even if it’s a short one, he’ll improve a great deal because he has skilled teachers, talented daily practice opponents and most of all because he cares. He proved that with the dedication he showed tutors and professors last year and with the effort he exhibited on the court Tuesday.

McLemore’s upbeat body language won’t make anybody think of Josh Selby or C.J. Henry. Sorry to evoke those memories. It’s just that when they pop into my head, I feel compelled to share them. Misery loves company.

Back to the present. Signs abounded that McLemore is serious about becoming a complete player.

When he was late recovering to Emporia State’s Kaleb Wright, who made him pay by hitting a three-pointer late in the game, McLemore’s disappointment in himself arrived at the same instant as that of his coach, who sent a verbal dart across the court.

In a team-high 26 minutes, McLemore committed three turnovers and, according to Self, was responsible for a teammate’s because he didn’t have the patience to let a screen get set. McLemore’s far from perfect but perfectly positioned to stack millions and millions of dollars, thanks to a blend of physical gifts and the proper attitude.

“I could have guarded better tonight,” McLemore chided himself in the postgame presser.

He certainly has guarded better players, such as the guy he had a habit of frustrating in the practice gymnasium a year ago.

“Guarding Tyshawn (Taylor) every day in practice bettered me as a player,” McLemore said. “It definitely was a good learning experience.”

McLemore will be schooling Division I players soon enough, and then he’ll be gone too soon because that’s the way it works with college basketball players whose ceilings fly so high.

Comments

pea 1 year, 12 months ago

Stroke sentence gave me just a first?

huskerpower 1 year, 11 months ago

Dear god, if you read that thing fast and pause in the wrong places it's ridiculously racist.

Alan Dickey 1 year, 12 months ago

"McLemore’s upbeat body language won’t make anybody think of Josh Selby or C.J. Henry."

I assume you mean "Xavier Henry"?

John Randall 1 year, 11 months ago

Josh let frustration at suspension and injury bury his spirit.
C.Jr. moped his way through a season. X didn't want to hurt teammate's chances to shine. Tom is right that Ben's attitude's far better than the first two.

Michael Auchard 1 year, 12 months ago

Good game, he reminds of Rush some with his length. I'm not sure I'm going to crown him yet, though, against Emporia State.

Ethan Berger 1 year, 12 months ago

The difference from Ben being a good player to being a great player is that mid range jump shot and the ability to create his own shot. When he dribble to the free throw line, stopped on a dime and drained it, it showed he has potential to be great. He has great put back and 3 point ability. If he creates his own shots, defenses have to be honest. If he can develop that ability, he leaves for the NBA after this year.

KGphoto 1 year, 11 months ago

I stood up, turned to my wife and said. "That's it right there! This guy is for real. That's the shot that separates him. That's an NBA player right there."

It wasn't the dunks or the skywalking, it was that one jumper. Good eye Hawk90. Totally agree.

nostradavid 1 year, 12 months ago

Were grown men really screaming with Benmania?

mojayhawk 1 year, 11 months ago

How about leaving the "millions of dollars" pressure out for awhile.

Chris1955 1 year, 11 months ago

Did TK suck down a 6 pack of Red Bull before he wrote this piece? Talk about all over the place....

RJ King 1 year, 11 months ago

I feel like I just got off the Tilt-A-Whirl. The "misery loves company" remark makes no sense. That B-Mac's body language so much more positive than a couple of former players makes one happy, not miserable.

nuleafjhawk 1 year, 11 months ago

It seems as though someone has a "Big Mac" crush.

I believe he also likes Ben McLemore a lot.

Jason Keller 1 year, 11 months ago

Ben Mclemore has a chance to be the number one overall pick next year. I guess I didn't realize how big he is. He is 6'5" all day long and is ready for the NBA almost immediately. Hopefully Self's conservative talk will convince him to stay another year. One more never hurts :) This team has 6 or 7 future pros on it at least. Ben, Jeff, Elijah, White, Adams and Ellis are all NBA guys eventually. I think even Travis and Jamari will at least eventually sign one NBA contract. I don't think any of us even understand how talented this team is. ESU is no guage. This is going to be one of the most enjoyable teams to watch that Self has ever had. Can't wait.

Phil Leister 1 year, 11 months ago

Haha, number one overall pick. He's a first rounder, but come on.

Robert Brock 1 year, 11 months ago

He won't go high in the draft unless he shows that he can also shoot the outside shot with dead-eye precision. He has a long way to go to showcase that ability.

HawkKlaw 1 year, 11 months ago

I agree with your positive outlook, but most people, if they're 6'5" to start the day, will be 6'5" when they end the day. Really, this goes for most humans, unless they're younger than 18. jk lol

I also agree that this team is loaded with long-term talent and boatload of eventual NBA players. Good to see!

KGphoto 1 year, 11 months ago

Unlikely, but I know at least one list that had him at 5 before he'd played a minute of college ball, so who knows.

Sam Constance 1 year, 11 months ago

I love your optimism, but wings don't go #1 in the draft anymore. The last wing player to go #1 overall was Lebron James, almost a decade ago. Before him, it was Glenn Robinson, in 1994. And before that, it was James Worthy in 1982. All of those guys, btw, were small forwards.

And the last shooting guard (Ben's likely NBA position) to go #1 overall was...

Mark Aguirre in 1981. In the modern history of the draft, the #1 overall pick has been dominated by centers and power forwards, with occasional forays into the point guard and small forward ranks, if the talent warrants.

But I agree he could be a lottery pick this year if he progresses.

Ethan Berger 1 year, 11 months ago

he's not really a wing player or at least he shouldn't be. I see him having more roles for an NBA style 2 then 3. (Outside of James, Durant and Anthony of course)

Sam Constance 1 year, 11 months ago

I think wing technically refers to both the 2 and the 3 in the NBA, although in recent years it's possible that the term has been re-imagined to only include guys like James (SF).

jhox 1 year, 11 months ago

I have little doubt he's a one and doner. He doesn't strike me as being as laid back as Rush. I have a feeling that by conference season we'll see him flying all over the place.

Self is going to have a tough time getting guys minutes. This team looks to be really deep. With guys like Rio and Lucas stepping up, there may not be enough minutes to go around. Peters, who looked to be a lock for the rotation before the injury, might want to consider a redshirt year.

akgjenkintown 1 year, 11 months ago

Rio demonstrated last night why Doyle left immediately after the Europe trip. Rio could be the best on ball defender KU has seen for awhile and he absolutely hounded and frustrated everyone he guarded in Europe and last night. The ESU offense was pushed further away from the basket when he was in. When Self needs to change the pace of the game and press, Rio might be the first choice off the bench. It is a pleasure to see a player embrace a defensive role to get minutes as a freshman. There is a lot of talent (and think Peters and Young where out) that will be a challenge to develop and mess into an effective team, but if this team sticks together for awhile it will be fun to watch.

Jack Wilson 1 year, 11 months ago

+1. You might be right on there .. practice, Europe. A very reasonable assumption on Doyle. Adams was terrific on defense last night. It was the highlight of the game in my opinion. As I mentioned on another thread, if Adams can handle the ball, Tharpe may be looking over his shoulder.

REHawk 1 year, 11 months ago

I'd like to see a rerun of the game, just to watch Adams and Lucas. I was all set to focus on Ben and Perry. Adams stole my attention from the getgo. Very green, but very intense and determined. Similar to Kevin Young last season, Rio possesses the energy to make things happen. He is bound to win game minutes throughout his freshman campaign.

NebraskaJayhawk 1 year, 11 months ago

His length and defensive pressure reminded me of a young RusRob that probably strokes it better. I'm looking forward to watching Adams for years to come.

jhox 1 year, 11 months ago

Defensively he reminded me a lot of Hinrich, just smothering guys. I'm guessing it will translate against D1 level talent as well. Time will tell.

AsadZ 1 year, 11 months ago

Boy I was impressed by our length in the backcourt. EJ, Ben, AW3, Rio - these guys are long Plus we have bodies up front to Bang This is going to be fun team to watch I agree with akg on Rio. He reminded me a lot of Taylor in his Freshman year

joeloveshawks 1 year, 11 months ago

I watched most of the game online last night but missed this tow handed follow up dunk. Does anyone have a link to this highlight?

REHawk 1 year, 11 months ago

Bill Self can throw some major change-ups at opponents this season. Anytime our starters go through lulls in intensity or are in the midst of the opposition going on a scoring surge, just imagine Adams and Young popping off the bench to inject energy into the game. WOW!

Alohahawk 1 year, 11 months ago

Young's value as a senior shouldn't be under-estimated. He demonstrated some of the same energy last year when he entered games. So, perhaps some of the same has rubbed off on Rio/other teammates.

I'm going by what people who attended the game have said, but I can imagine Self showing tapes of Rio (and perhaps TRel and last year's team, as well) playing defense as a teaching guide/motivation for others in the future, saying, "This kind of play/defense will get you playing time during games." If he can get everyone on the same page defensively, that will win a lot of close games.

Keep the opponent back-peddling so they can't get into a rhythm - deny them their X's and O's offense. And since the PG starts the offense, cut off the head and the rest of the body gets confused. Good offense starts with great defense. (Way to go, Rio!). In reverse, that's why good passing is so effective. Keep the opposition guessing and keep them from focusing on one player, because the ball is constantly changing hands.

ku1otaku 1 year, 11 months ago

Let's not get too carried away...I mean, we did just play Emporia State. I'd like to see how we do against better competition before making claims like: (1) Ben McLemore is one and done (2) Ben McLemore has the potential to be the #1 pick (3) Rio Adams could be the best on the ball defender KU has seen for a while

Don't get me wrong, I am excited about this team and their potential but I also want to be careful because we are very young and we just played Emporia State. I remember how good Tharpe looked last year during the exhibition games and then he didn't do much of anything during the season.

Also, I thought the little cheap shot at Josh Selby and CJ Henry by TK wasn't really necessary. Why do we keep bringing that up?

kc_wildfire 1 year, 11 months ago

Even Coach Self said that they haven't had anyone capable of putting as much pressure on the ball like Adams did last night since Jeff Hawkins.

railer20 1 year, 11 months ago

"And grown men reacted the way teenagers did years ago when the Beatles crossed the ocean from Liverpool."

TK made me laugh...I don't even know why teenagers would scream for the Beatles, but TK has never made me laugh.

HawkKlaw 1 year, 11 months ago

"Arms that fall so close to the floor rank as the first eye-grabber that makes your imagination race as to Kansas University red-shirt freshman Ben McLemore’s ceiling as a basketball player."

Uh, what?

Anyway, yes Ben McLemore showed a ton of offensive ability last night. As with Naadir, he needs to work on his defense, but BMac certainly gave me the impression that he's a future NBA lottery pick in a KU jersey (and no, I'm not only basing my opinion on last night's game against a weak opponent...he's been showing us this since high school).

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 11 months ago

I think your last sentence rings true for all of what I saw last night. As in, I understand it's a weak opponent and exhibition game.

But we looked faster, bigger, more athletic and more in control than I have seen us in a while. Not to mention deeeeep. Right now, we're sitting at 10-12 deep, and I can't wait to see what our 8-man conference rotation will look like once we whittle it down.

Again, I understand it was an exhibition game against Emporia freakin' State. But I saw a lot of promise.

Sportshooligan713 1 year, 11 months ago

I would be surprised based mainly on Self's comments that by conference play the rotation is anything but; Starters PG-Elijah SG-Ben SF-Travis PF-Perry C-Jeff

Bench Rotation G-Andrew White PG-Tharpe (10-12min at most) F-Kevin Young F-Jamari Traylor (10-12min at most)

The only changes depend on the development of Rio, he could take Tharpe's minutes, and the recovery of Peters, he could take Traylor's. Landon is to raw and will not be in the rotation by spring, although he showed great potential and I'm really excited to see how he develops. I think he is at least 2 years away from being a major contributor, partially because I think we bring in at least one top 50 big man next season and partially because I think it is going to take awhile for him to develop. I would not be at all surprised if he ended up redshirting next year.

It is an interesting battle shaping up between Tharpe and Adams, although at this point Self has shown it is Tharpe's battle to lose. Tharpe is the better offensive option, he could be an incredible sparkplug off the bench. Offensively he could bring what Sherron did to the 06-07 and 07-08 teams from off the bench, but defensively he is more comparable to a Connor Teahan, that is to say, and absolute liability. Rio on the otherhand seems like he could be that defensive stopper off the bench, but will he be to aggressive in conference play? Will he give needless fouls, make a ton of freshman mistakes? They bring totally different skill sets to the table, it will be interesting to see which one Self goes with as the main option.

rockchalker5 1 year, 11 months ago

I think Traylor has a great chance to get more minutes than Kevin Young. We don't have a lot of size/strength down low and we desperately need Traylor to be a bruiser on the block.

Alohahawk 1 year, 11 months ago

Good points. It could depend on what the opponent brings to the table: Will KU need size and muscle (JT), or will KU need that extra energy and experience (KY)? It's nice to imagine Self has more than one option, over what he had to choose from last season.

Tony Bandle 1 year, 11 months ago

I remember seeing clips of BenMac as an 8th grader back in St.Louis. Sometimes, even then, you just knew that he had what it takes. He may end up being the best Kansas player out of St.Louis since Jo Jo White.

Ron Prichard 1 year, 11 months ago

I know Ryan Robertson was from somewhere near STL, but what other KU players have come out of there? Not trying to be confrontational. I really can't think of any right off my head. I do agree that McLemore has a chance to be a really, really special player.

Tony Bandle 1 year, 11 months ago

Great point, raps...I'm not sure I can name anyone else besides Ryan and Jo Jo!! :) Roger Bonnenstiel from my day was from Collinsville, IL. Not many kids got past the "Tiger Trap" along US 70.

Kevin Huffman 1 year, 11 months ago

How about Kansas City area players - I suppose you could even include Leavenworth as K.C. area though.......if you include Leavenworth then you could say - Wayne Simien, Brandon Rush (though didn't he go to high school in Va.?), Jeff Hawkins, Jeff Graves, Greg Gurley, Travis Releford....I feel like I'm forgetting at least another fairly recent G too.

Kevin Huffman 1 year, 11 months ago

We also didn't get them, but I think we were in on TRYING TO get David Lee & Bradley Beal....both of whom DIDN'T go to Mizzou but both went to Florida.

BainDread 1 year, 11 months ago

I'm not familiar with names of all the suburbs of the St. Louis metro area, so I may have missed a few, but here are some KU players from the modern era....meaning since I was born. I can't take credit for the research. Some kind soul has posted a list. Google KU basketball players by hometown.

Jo Jo White -- 1966-69 Bob Wilson -- 1966-67 Dave Nash -- 1968-69 Ken Franklin -- 1972 Marshall Rogers – 1973 Rick Suttle -- 1973-75 Reuben Shelton -- 1974-76 Herb Nobles -- 1976-77 Hasan Houston -- 1977-78 Altonio Campbell -- 1985-86 Macolm Nash -- 1990-92 Sean Tunstall -- 1991 Ryan Robertson -- 1996-99

Ron Prichard 1 year, 11 months ago

Thanks! Good info. I'm surprised we haven't had anyone between Robertson and McLemore. That's a 15 year drought from freshman year to freshman year!

RJ King 1 year, 11 months ago

Tom Kivisto - East St. Louis (Illinois)

rockchalker5 1 year, 11 months ago

Keegan...please calm down. You've gone way to far. Millions and millions waiting for him? Please don't cloud this kid's mind anymore than necessary. He will hear plenty of this in due time, no need to feed the fire now.

That being said, Ben looked very good. Rock Chalk

AsadZ 1 year, 11 months ago

I agree with ku1 regarding cheap shot on Selby and CJ Henry which I thought was meant for xavier.

I hope KUSports can help us move on and not go back in this regard.

RJ King 1 year, 11 months ago

Agree that they were cheap shots, and not at all amusing or entertaining. But I think CJ (not X) was indeed his intended target. X was always very pleasant, though not animated. But CJ came across as pouty, sullen, and possibly bitter. I have no idea what he is like on the inside, but that was his outer persona.

Sam Constance 1 year, 11 months ago

McLemore’s upbeat body language won’t make anybody think of Josh Selby or C.J. Henry. Sorry to evoke those memories. ..... Don't apologize for evoking the memories. Those I don't mind.

What I do mind is taking uncalled for pot-shots at a guy who--body language aside--looked like he wanted to succeed and win for Kansas. I've never thought his issues were anything more than his frustration at wanting to contribute to the team so badly and being unable due to his unfortunate injury situation.

I expect those kind of low blow cheap shots from some of the fanbase. Not from a journalist.

FarSideHawk 1 year, 11 months ago

Agreed. That comment was uncalled for. Don't know about CJ much, but Josh and Xavier did their best and were complete team players. Josh was just dealt a bad hand, but his attitude towards the team was always positive.

Chris Bruning 1 year, 11 months ago

that and the fact that our home court streak comes to an end early to a mediocre USC team if not for selby....what a debut game for Josh, always liked him, always will!!!

HawkKlaw 1 year, 11 months ago

"But they looked like freshmen. They don’t know what they’re doing. But they try real hard."

Bill Self is at it again.

jayhawktownie 1 year, 11 months ago

Interesting editorial decision (or lack thereof) to call these guys "red-shirt freshmen". As far as I understand, last year was in no way considered a red-shirt year for them. Am I wrong? It seems important to clarify that they are not true freshmen, but there's gotta be an alternative descriptor to use.

FarSideHawk 1 year, 11 months ago

But that year didn't count against their eligibility, did it?

Second year freshmen?

dansmullet 1 year, 11 months ago

I don't think you properly understand what it means to redshirt...

Sally Presson 1 year, 11 months ago

Not once during last night's game did I EVER think of Xavier Henry or Josh Selby, Jamari and Ben are their own person and so much better than those 2. Both guys sure didn't disappoint any of us at the game. Welcome to Jayhawk Basketball guys. The only thing I thought was they are really great players and how the NCAA tested them to the fullest by holding them out. thank goodness they have the desire to play at KU and stayed and are going to be stars!!! Loved loved loved watching you two boys play. The entire team is fun to watch--Great Job Hawks!!!

JayhawkPurist 1 year, 11 months ago

The cheap shot at Selby was totally unnecessary, and the more I think about it, pretty pathetic -- you know, bashing the honest performance of an injury-plagued 19 year old. What did Selby ever do to KU to make him such a target for cheap shot artists like Keegan?

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