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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Keegan

Opinion: McLemore, Smart face off again as Big 12’s best freshmen

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No point in whining about the one-and-done rule that teases college basketball audiences with loud talents such as Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart and Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore, only to take them away to a league with quieter audiences and less passionate action on the stage.

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Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart comes away with a steal from Kansas guard Ben McLemore late in the second half on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

They’re good enough at their soon-to-be-professions to start earning big money, so why begrudge them that? The fact that tonight could be the last time they share a court as Big 12 players makes for an interesting subplot because they both are so gifted and feature such different styles.

If McLemore is Muhammad Ali minus the boastfulness, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee, Smart is Joe Frazier, a relentless, thickly built, in-your-face buzz saw, leading with his chin and never retreating.

The long McLemore stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 195 pounds. The strong Smart checks in at 6-4, 225.

Smart shoots a little too often at times, McLemore too seldom.

Smart’s Cowboys defeated Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse last month because Smart refused to let them lose. He celebrated with a stunning double backflip. McLemore drops jaws with his flashy dunks, but the closest he comes to celebrating is spontaneously flashing a grin.

They have turned the Big 12 Freshman of the Year award into a two-man race and are lead cars in the only slightly more crowded Big 12 Player of the Year derby.

Smart leads the conference in steals and ranks fifth in scoring, sixth in assists, 14th in blocked shots and 16th in rebounding. McLemore leads the conference in free-throw percentage, ranks second in scoring, third in effective field-goal percentage, 12th in blocked shots and 18th in rebounding.

For all their differences, McLemore and Smart have one thing in common: The more talented the competition, the more points they tend to score. McLemore scored 33 points against Iowa State, 30 vs. Kansas State, 23 against Oklahoma State and 22 at Ohio State. Smart stung chief rival Oklahoma with 28 points, had 25 at Kansas (plus eight second-half offensive rebounds), 25 vs. K-State, 23 against Gonzaga, 21 vs. Iowa State and 20 against North Carolina State.

The player whose team wins tonight will move into the lead for freshman honors and will join KU center Jeff Withey at the front of the pack for the top player hardware.

Regardless of what happens tonight, McLemore has the best shot among Big 12 players of becoming the top pick in the NBA draft. If he is, he’ll become the first shooting guard taken with the first overall pick since Notre Dame guard Austin Carr in 1971.

Plenty of time remains in their college careers before they need to worry about the future. Both college basketball superstars have one motivator tonight and it has nothing to do with individual honors. They and the rest of the players know that the winner remains in a first-place tie with Kansas State and the loser tumbles to third place, one game behind the co-leaders with five games left on the schedule.

Comments

JAhoops 1 year, 2 months ago

Ben is great but he is going to struggle in the NBA if he doesn't get a better handle on the ball. He struggles to to create a shot for himself do to his lack of ball handling skills. I don't think i've ever seen him finish with his left hand either. He would be much better of polishing those skills and sticking around a year or two longer. I guarantee he would make a much larger impact going into the NBA with a little fine tuning of that skillset.

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Richard Benson 1 year, 2 months ago

No point in whining -- UNLESS you are actually suggesting that the likes of Marcus Smart and Ben McLemore somehow approach the overall game of Rio Adams.

On a more serious note, it has appeared that HCBS recently began using Elijah Johnson, Naadir Tharp, and Rio all three at the same time for short stretches recently. A creative and --on the sporadic experimental basis upon which it had been tried- promising approach to the Hawks' ballhandling troubles.

I was wanting to see more of that --and more of Rio occasionally out there as the principal ballhandler. Now I just want him gone. I am quite certain I am not alone.

Immaturity is one thing. Narissism and unconcern about team on the scale that Rio is unconcerned about team is a cancer in the locker room.

Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out, Rio.

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Tony Bandle 1 year, 2 months ago

The end of the conference schedule is brutal. I wish it was reversed, i.e. the three home games against the three worst teams were on the road and the three road games against the three contenders were at home.

However, it is what it is.

This year, especially, if Kansas wins or ties for the conference crown, they will have truly earned it the hard way. [ That damn loss to TCU may indeeed be the bump in the road that throws us off the highway to Number Nine ].

Still, I have to keep the faith and believe the Hawks can pull it out somehow!!

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Robert Brock 1 year, 2 months ago

Smart got a lot of cheap points in Lawrence with offensive rebounds and put-backs. We need to be a lot tougher on the glass tonight.

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nuleafjhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

I'm not being negative, just expressing what I see - If ANYBODY on our team can make a 1-2 foot shot, we win by 20. I've never seen a team so adept at bouncing shots off the glass and rim without having it actually go in.

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clevelandjayhawker 1 year, 2 months ago

Free throws and KY making shots within 3 feet will help too

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VaJay 1 year, 2 months ago

That first sentence is the key to the game.

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mikehawk 1 year, 2 months ago

More than Smart and Ben, it is about limiting offensive rebounds, defending the three, and handling a very loud, highly energized crowd that is literally right on top of you. The only thing OSU fans want more than beating Self and KU, is convincing their boy to come home and be their next Mr. Iba. Never underestimate how wrapped in their DNA and in their fantasies this proud OSU bunch I live with down here is to get Coach BillI "back home where he belongs." They act like that hate him for choosing KU over his alma mater, but deep down they love and admire him. To them, Travis Ford is an interloper who fills the seat that belongs to Bill when he finally decides to come home.

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JHawk74 1 year, 2 months ago

Technically Ben is not a 1 and done player. This is his second year at Kansas University.

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Kevin Huffman 1 year, 2 months ago

So First-Team All Big XII -

M.Smart, OSU McLemore, KU

Withey, KU

Who do you have in the other two spots.

I think I've seen most people w/ McGruder, KSU & Osby, OU.

But I think I'd have to go with P.Jackson, BU & M.Brown, OSU.

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Michael Pannacciulli 1 year, 2 months ago

Smart is a great player. Reminds me of Sherron but has a little something more. McLemore will grow and get even better. That stroke is perfect. Such a natural.

Tonight comes down to EJ, Trav, and Jeff playing near flawless, aggressive, team ball. EJ especially.

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Jayhawks Rock 1 year, 2 months ago

It was a roundoff and a backflip. Not a double backflip (which would be two full rotations in the air before landing). Just saying.

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jaybate 1 year, 2 months ago

What if...

Self had landed Smart and McLemore?

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jaybate 1 year, 2 months ago

I used to think talent peaked with Durant and Rush, but this McLemore and Smart duo may be a new high.

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jaybate 1 year, 2 months ago

Ben is a great, great talent, but...

Travis is shooting a much higher percentage from treyville.

Keep getting better, Ben.

Trav, you've still got bragging rights on the kid.

This sort of competition keeps a team loose and getting better.

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texashawk10 1 year, 2 months ago

Ben McLemore is one of the best ahooters I have ever seen and I think Jay Bilas is dead on in his comparison of McLemore to Ray Allen. I firmly believe that when Ben's NBA career is over, he will be residing in the same neighborhood as Allen and Reggie Miller in regards to all time great shooters. I know that's a very high bar to set, but I believe is going to be that caliber of player for whatever NBA franchise/s is lucky enough to get McLemore during his prime.

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Priest Fontaine 1 year, 2 months ago

Nice comparison. Got me ready for round two! Should be a good one.

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