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Friday, March 29, 2013

Looking for more: Ben McLemore says he fixed his shot

The Kansas Jayhawks look around at the vastness of Cowboys Stadium as they take the court for practice on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

The Kansas Jayhawks look around at the vastness of Cowboys Stadium as they take the court for practice on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

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— Ben McLemore stood behind the three-point line and confidently swished long-range shot after long-range shot during Kansas University’s 40-minute shoot-around on Thursday in cavernous Cowboys Stadium.

The 6-foot-5, 195-pound freshman from St. Louis looked more like the guy who has averaged 15.8 points a game off 49.4 percent shooting entering today’s 6:37 p.m. NCAA South Regional Sweet 16 game against Michigan than the one who went 2-for-14 and scored 13 points total in last weekend’s second- and third-round victories over Western Kentucky and North Carolina.

“Coach (Joe, assistant) Dooley pointed out that I usually shoot with my fingers spread apart. But he said lately that he’s been seeing me shoot with my fingers close together, which is probably why some of my shots were long. He got me shooting back to normal,” McLemore said, explaining some technical issues that may have caused his recent shooting woes.

“Coach said I was shooting a flat shot. When I do that, the ball is like a line drive or long. He said I was having a quick release instead of shooting the regular shot I shoot. I’ve been in the gym, getting extra shots with coach Dooley and (Kurtis) Townsend, and now it’s looking good.”

McLemore explained the fixed glitch in his shot to wave after wave of reporters who approached him during a 30-minute media session in a locker room in the NFL stadium.

He nixed the notion that there are any other reasons for his having made one of his last 12 threes over the last three games for the Jayhawks (31-5). Some have gone so far as to speculate McLemore’s mind may already be in the NBA, where he’s expected to be a top-three pick in the June draft.

“There wasn’t anything outside of basketball, as far as (anybody) talking to me and getting in my ear. I just had a few off nights. I just missed some shots,” McLemore said. “I still did some other things to help my teammates out (like hit nine of 10 free throws in the two NCAA wins). I got some rebounds (11) and things like that.

“When I start missing shots, people think something’s wrong or that something’s going on away from the court. That wasn’t the deal at all. I was just missing shots. I just need to go back out there and play free again.”

He said the NBA issue is far from his mind.

“Right now, I don’t know at this point in time (if he’ll enter draft). I’m just trying to focus on this year,” McLemore said, repeating the stance he’s taken all season. “It’s just a blessing to be here, so right now at this point I don’t know.”

McLemore did agree with an assertion that, for whatever reason, he hasn’t been having as much fun of late.

“Coach (Bill Self) talked to me. He said he hasn’t really seen a smile on my face the last couple weeks,” McLemore said. “Everybody knows when I’m on the court I have a big smile on my face. I definitely agreed with him on that. I’ve got to play my game, have fun and don’t worry about making mistakes.”

Blessed with a shooter’s mentality, McLemore said he won’t by shy about firing away against Michigan tonight.

“Getting extra shots up ... I’m confident,” he said. “I have my rhythm back. As a shooter, you’ve got to keep shooting the ball. I will not be hesitant. I will be aggressive like I always am to help my teammates out.”

Self enters the game confident McLemore will play well against the No. 4-seeded Wolverines (28-7).

“He’s trying hard. He’s tried hard. And he’s going to play great this weekend,” Self said. “I really believe that. And I think he believes that. Everybody goes through phases where maybe they don’t play their best. Some people can put up numbers when they don’t play their best, but still they’re playing as poorly, when a guy doesn’t play their best, when he doesn’t put up the numbers. He doesn’t have the ball in his hands when he’s not playing his best, to go get assists, drive it. That’s not who he’s been all year long. Certainly for us to have the best chance, everybody needs to play well, and he’s a key part of everybody playing well. We believe he’ll play well.”

Self hasn’t shied from speaking with McLemore this time of year.

“We’re not going to leave him alone. It’s not like a pitcher with a no-hitter going into the seventh, where nobody talks to him,” Self said. “So we try to work with him, but not work with him from a situation where, ‘Hey, you know, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that.’

“If you are in a batting slump and strike out three times in a row and believe that could happen a fourth time or you know you are going to get a hit … that’s kind of his situation. He has to know he’s going to get a hit, and I believe he’ll rise to the occasion.”

McLemore’s teammates are in his corner.

“The biggest thing that we’ve been saying to him constantly is, ‘We support you, no matter what. You’ve carried us a long way, you’ve helped us a lot. And we know you’ll be there when we really need you. When you’re struggling, we’re not going to stray, so keep the confidence.’ And I think he has,” senior Elijah Johnson said. “I don’t think he’s dropped his head too much. I know he’s been a little frustrated. In the North Carolina game (in which he sat much of second half), I didn’t see anybody on the bench more excited than him, jumping up and down and being happy. He’ll brush it off. I think he’s stronger than that.”

Noted Travis Releford: “We tell him, ‘Just keep playing.’ We got his back.”

KU’s guards will have to be up to the challenge against the likes of Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas today if they hope to defeat Michigan and advance to Sunday’s regional final against Florida or Florida Gulf Coast.

“Their guard play is great,” McLemore said. “Burke’s team around him feeds off him. He knows how to get teammates open. He has good vision and will attack the basket. I’ll be guarding a lot of people. We’re going to guard as a team. Everybody will guard.”

Comments

David Davison 1 year, 8 months ago

I feel better after reading this. Glad he's shooting better, and getting shots to fall (even though it is no pressure) in that huge stadium. I think it is going to take a solid effort by everyone to get past Michigan. That is a pretty safe assumption I know, but I'm saying I don't think we can have an off half again, because the chances of Michigan also having a less than stellar half aren't great.

Kevin Jenkins 1 year, 8 months ago

Every great player has off nights. Kobe sometimes shoots 20 shots and makes 7. Ray Allen once 6/20. Anthony 5/27. You just have to play and help out your teammates. With Ben's help we will be Ncaa champs.

ManCrushOnCaptainKirk 1 year, 8 months ago

Needs to get off early -- alley up or running off a few screens for an easy jumper. Hopefully we can do that without taking us out of our offense.

Nick Kersting 1 year, 8 months ago

Thinking the same thing. A set play to get him a lob, after seeing the ball go in the hole his confidence will return!!

Michael Pannacciulli 1 year, 8 months ago

Bring it tonight Ben. You will frreak these guys out with your talents. They will be saying "I knew he was good...but not THATgood..." RCJHK.

WIN WIN WiN WIN!

Ron Franklin 1 year, 8 months ago

Right. The ol loop a doop. Look over here at this thing while I fix the real problem.

HAWKTOPIA 1 year, 8 months ago

I hope he pump fakes the first 3 shots, and Sky Jams them!

VaJay 1 year, 8 months ago

I hope you're talking about UM! ;)

Roy Scherff 1 year, 8 months ago

Really hope Ben's shot shows up tonight.

Gil Ek 1 year, 8 months ago

Was at the shoot-around. His stroke looked better and shots were dropping. Everyone appeared loose and confident. The place is HUGE and doesn't feel right to be playing basketball in there. Guess I am "Old School" still.

Jeff Kilgore 1 year, 8 months ago

Maybe that explains WSU's Baker. Scott City has some serious outdoors.

justinryman 1 year, 8 months ago

WIth the big screen larger than the court, I want to see a picture before tip off of Jeff with his arms out on both sides,

you know showing his real life size wing span

Martin Rosenblum 1 year, 8 months ago

A 40 minute "quick fix"! That'sort of like going to one of those minor emergency clinics!

Now, Dr. Dooley, can you come up with a "quick fix" for EJ's inconsistency?

dylans 1 year, 8 months ago

Mark Lyons is going home. He didn't advance a talented AU team very far. Lets enjoy our winners even if it's not conventional at the point.

kennethst 1 year, 8 months ago

I hope his shot is back.....but hitting them during a game is a different world than in practice. We will see in a few hours. I'm nervously confident.......and confidently nervous.

brojoe 1 year, 8 months ago

Hey I have an idea let's ask him a hundred times if he thinks he's lost his shot or if he's gonna choke again that won't mess with his head at all.

Jeff Kilgore 1 year, 8 months ago

He can impact the game in other ways but I would like to see him shoot it often and early.

tis4tim 1 year, 8 months ago

Now, time to "fix" the Wolverines. And if Ben goes off ... Game Ball to Coach Dooley.

I once had a composition teacher who always talked to us as a class and individually about our writing. She was well aware that she liked to challenge each of us to be better and made no apologies for it. What I always remember though is that she said the time to be most worried is when she stops getting on our case about things. It was at that point, she told us, that she had given up on us because we had already done so.

Point being: I'm glad Coach Self and the others are quick to give Ben a word of encouragement or offer some advice no matter how seemingly small it may seem. To me that indicates Ben has his head right and the coaches recognize it too, which is why they're still coaching their butts off for him.

Go get 'em, young man!

Steve Corder 1 year, 8 months ago

We will see when the pressure is applied.

FL_Jhawk 1 year, 8 months ago

Great the hear that the team has his back. A lot of fans here haven't had Ben's back. I think we will have a great game tonight, either way.

Tony Bandle 1 year, 8 months ago

Holy Crap..I hope that avatar is your girl friend, wife or both!!

KPOP 1 year, 8 months ago

can't believe coach dooley would jack with Bens head like that. now Ben will be thinking about spreading his fingers when he shoots. My solution is much better. dunk the dam ball. to heck with 18 footers. get a couple of "bunnies" ealry, get in rhythm and let it fly in the second half. RCJHGKU

Robert Brock 1 year, 8 months ago

Mac is not confident driving to the rim. Worst part of his game.

Ron Franklin 1 year, 8 months ago

I think what Dooley doing is a masterful psychological strategy. McLemores slump has nothing to do with his fingers being spread or not spread. He's been timid. He's not getting full extension. He is over thinking things. In order for Ben to relax and extend on his shots, Joe is telling him to focus on something else; His fingers. If he focuses on his fingers, the muscle memory that he has trained himself for the last 15 years will come back and his shots will drop.

Also, If McLemore's slump had to do with his finger mechanics I would expect to have seen his free throws go down in the same time period. Missing that oop after half time the other day was clear enough evidence for me that Ben's head has not been right.

dylans 1 year, 8 months ago

Maybe it's better to think about spreading your fingers than about your string of misses. Or possibly that is all that is wrong with Ben's stroke. Unfortunately Ben couldn't even make an alley oop dunk against UNC so you've gotta get him going somehow. "Fixing" Ben's stroke maybe slightly physical, but it's mostly mental. Hopefully Ben's through his slump.

justinryman 1 year, 8 months ago

Your avatar could also have Bruce Webber, Thad Matta, Rick Barnes, and a few others.

dylans 1 year, 8 months ago

Not as much fun. I love Roy. I have no real respect for those "coaches".

Ron Franklin 1 year, 8 months ago

I'd like to say this before the game tonight.

I have watched some of every game this tournament, and all of many games.

I am completely disgusted with the officiating in this tournament. It's the worst I can recall. I have even thought about not watching anymore games.

Basketball is a game of rhythm, finesse, quickness, explosion, and mental toughness. It is not a game of clutching, grabbing, and physical momentum disruptions.

I use to liken basketball to improvisational jazz, but now its become more like heavy metal, double-bass pedals, power chords, and scream shouting.

The game I love is changing right before me because the money and officiating are letting it.

Erin Troyer 1 year, 8 months ago

Less whistles and scrap that crappy chicken wing/flagrant foul 1&2 nonsense. And for goodness sakes, quit stopping the clock at the end of the games to check the time! Sheesh!

Ron Franklin 1 year, 8 months ago

As many whistles needed as it pertains to the rules of the game. That's all. Not more, not less. Just the right amount.

Jeff Kilgore 1 year, 8 months ago

Mozart to The Holy Roman Emperor: "It doesn't have too many notes. It has just as many notes as it needs. No more no less."

cklarock 1 year, 8 months ago

Fantastic! Thank you for posting it!

Jeff Kilgore 1 year, 8 months ago

I don't see it that much more physical now than it was when Illinois, under Self, beat us down like Jr. High kids. Now, we administer some of the beatings.

Kristen Downing 1 year, 8 months ago

Don't go to Ben at the beginning of the game. Too much pressure, too expected. Let him get in the flow of the game first and then....of course, Self knows best.

kennethst 1 year, 8 months ago

Be good to get him an early slam, though......that would help get him going.

gorilla10 1 year, 8 months ago

There is not a dang thing "wrong" with Mclemores shot! It's probably the best in college basketball. Nerves is the problem he's had in the tourney as a freshman! I really hope he wasn't trying to "fix" his jump shot all week...

gorilla10 1 year, 8 months ago

Also.....Playing in a football stadium can definitely take some time to get used to shooting in! That MIGHT hurt Michigans game!! I wouldn't think it would have much affect on layups and dunks, would it????? hahah

kennethst 1 year, 8 months ago

Is it just me......or does anyone else dislike it when the networks do that close-in angle from behind the basket or just to its side??? It annoys me. Just show me the entire half-court....or entire court when needed. I like seeing everything.

There....I vented. I feel better.

justinryman 1 year, 8 months ago

Or when they show the bench or random fan and you miss a layup or dunk on the other end because it happened so fast?

Yeah those angles are cr@p, but the random fan or the bench shot while the game is STILL going on bothers me more.

OK I feel better I vented

Ron Franklin 1 year, 8 months ago

I personally like it when they do the top view and the view from the opposite end of the court where they are playing. It gives me better perspective for spacing, and game action.

KGphoto 1 year, 8 months ago

Ben likes the comfy confines of AFH. Outside AFH he has been a pedestrian shooter at best, with only a couple exceptions on the year. Not a knock on Ben, everybody shoots better in AFH. It’s easier when you know the crowd will explode every time you sink a three. It’s the reason teams records are always better at home.

But whatever happens with Ben’s shot, we have to realize we can win without him hitting threes. We HAVE been winning without him shooting well. Three straight now! We even won without him playing at all.

Four experienced seniors and Tharp proved to be a nightmare for North Carolina.

If we get 10 points and 6 rebounds from Mac tonight off 2-4 shooting, without shooting any threes at all, we should be in a good position to win.

I think our key will be the interior game with Withey, Young and Ellis, more than Mac’s shot.

dahawk40 1 year, 8 months ago

Well said. Any guard, i.e. Elijah, Travis, BMac, Naa, can get hot in any given game. The team suffers, however, when Jeff is out of his game. Interior play is going to be key. Dunk, dunk, OOP!

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