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Blog from New York: KU fans wait hours in line to get Ben McLemore's autograph at Times Square

Final update: 6 p.m.

Ben McLemore poses for a photo after signing an autograph at Champs Sports in Times Square in New York City on Wednesday. Photo by Matt Tait.

Ben McLemore poses for a photo after signing an autograph at Champs Sports in Times Square in New York City on Wednesday. Photo by Matt Tait. by Jesse Newell

The line at Champs Sports in Times Square has not gotten any shorter as Ben McLemore already has signed dozens of autographs and will be here until 6:30.

To my surprise, most of the memorabilia he's signed are KU photos, but I also saw him sign a Carmelo Anthony N.Y. Knicks T-shirt jersey. Odd.

The five dudes at the front of the line got there more than two hours early and three of them were KU fans living in NYC. All were young, high-school age probably, and one said he planned to play for KU in 2 years. He was maybe 5-9, though, so I'm not thinking his odds are good.

As for why they like KU, the answer was simple: the tradition. I also heard the name Andrew Wiggins come out. Go figure.

McLemore really seems to be enjoying this part as he's taking time to find out names before signing and shaking hands and saying thanks to every autograph-seeker.

This is it for McLemore for the day and also it for the blog. I'm headed back inside to write up a story for tomorrow's paper. But we'll have another full day of coverage tomorrow starting early with Nick Gerik's NBA draft rumors round-up and hopefully I'll jump in midday with a video from today. Tomorrow night, of course, I'll be live at The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where McLemore will learn the identity of his new squad.

I'll have videos, pics, vibe and reaction throughout the draft and Tom Keegan and Jesse Newell will also be chiming in on the draft blog from the home front.

Thanks for checking out today's coverage and we'll see you tomorrow!

Shout-out to Alex Poupprit, a huge KU fan and avid KUSports.com reader, who just said hey to me as he headed to get McLemore's signature.

It's almost Draft Day, folks!!!

4:36 p.m. update

Ben McLemore and Michigan's Trey Burke pose for a photo at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. Several members of the 2013 NBA Draft class toured the grounds Wednesday and interacted with family members of several victims of the terrorist attacks from Sept. 11, 2001. Photo by Matt Tait.

Ben McLemore and Michigan's Trey Burke pose for a photo at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. Several members of the 2013 NBA Draft class toured the grounds Wednesday and interacted with family members of several victims of the terrorist attacks from Sept. 11, 2001. Photo by Matt Tait. by Jesse Newell

Although Wednesday was about seeing the city, getting out in the community and talking to the media, the whole reason McLemore is here has not been far from his mind.

In addition to thinking he is a worthy No. 1 pick, McLemore is not worried about where he'll be picked, only what he'll do when that happens.

Incidentally, I talked to a couple of people linked with Cleveland and neither believe McLemore is in play there. They said it's Noel or Len. But who knows.

McLemore's brother, Kevin, said he thinks the Magic are the best fit, and McLemore himself said he enjoyed the chance to meet Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn, a name familiar to KU fans.

My gut tells me McLemore will go top five, but I'm not sure where he lands. Phoenix at five would be a good spot and I don't think Washington is an option at all at No. 3.

This much we do know. In a little more than 24 hours, both McLemore and the rest of the world will know and then it'll be time for him to show whichever team picked him that they made a good selection.

"I don't feel like waiting's going to be hard. I'm ready," McLemore said. "I'm gonna go straight to sleep tonight and I'm not nervous at all. I'm just excited and very blessed."

4:12 p.m. update

Ben McLemore takes a photo of the 9/11 Memorial. Photo by Matt Tait.

Ben McLemore takes a photo of the 9/11 Memorial. Photo by Matt Tait. by Jesse Newell

Although Ben McLemore was just 8 years old when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York in 2001, his visit to the 9/11 Memorial grounds on Wesnesdsy as part of the NBA Cares initiative still meant a lot to him.

"I was just a young buck," McLemore said as he made his way from the south pool to the north with a dozen other future NBA players. "I don't remember much about it, but I know the history and being here is cool."

The players joined several children of victims and toured the facility with cameras and unsuspecting visitors wondering who all those tall guys were.

Ben McLemore listens to stories about the terrorist attacks if Sept. 11, 2001 during Wednesday's NBA Cares outing to the 9/11 Memorial. Photo by Matt Tait.

Ben McLemore listens to stories about the terrorist attacks if Sept. 11, 2001 during Wednesday's NBA Cares outing to the 9/11 Memorial. Photo by Matt Tait. by Jesse Newell

The guide told stories of the heroics involved with they fateful day, and the sister of one of those who lost his life that day spoke with genuine joy and appreciation for the players taking time to pay tribute to the thousands who lost their lives in the attack.

McLemore snapped pictures of the memorial with his phone and then posed with more than a dozen fans before being photographed in a group shot near the survivor tree.

Each year, future lottery picks spend a portion of the day before the draft doing some sort of community outreach program, and this year the event was as meaningful for the players as it was the young people.

One other note of interest ... McLemore and Michigan's Trey Burke seemed to be fast friends. They toured the Memorial grounds together and sat by each other on the bus rides to and from.

Stay tuned for more regarding McLemore's status for tomorrow night ...

2:04 p.m. update

While waiting for McLemore I talked to Michigan guard Trey Burke about the shot he hit against Kansas and, though humble, he was more than happy to relive it.

Burke, who said he's been reminded about the shot just about every day since he hit it, said he's talked to McLemore about the shot both here in New York and at a workout in Chicago. As for the shot itself, Burke said he couldn't believe he hit it at the time because he felt he just threw it up. But, having watched it dozens of times since, he can see it. Good elevation, good follow through, good release. Bad news for Kansas.

As for McLemore, he seemed incredibly relaxed and confident during the 30-minute interview session.

He said being at KU helped him mature a great deal and added that the draft process has taught him to be more aggressive. You have to sell yourself, you have to compete for attention and interest and he's done his best to do that, even going as far as to say he believes he should be the No. 1 pick.

There's been a lot of talk about McLemore being out of shape, but he looked anything but that and said he's not worried about those comments as much as his mother is.

"I know who I am," he said. "I know how hard I've worked and what I've done to put myself in position to be here. I've got that dog in me and I'm ready to walk across the stage."

Headed to the World Trade Center site for an event with the players.

Stay tuned for more ...

Ben McLemore is wearing blue and red during his pre-draft interviews Wednesday. Photo by Matt Tait.

Ben McLemore is wearing blue and red during his pre-draft interviews Wednesday. Photo by Matt Tait. by Jesse Newell

Ben McLemore's official nametag at the NBA Draft. Photo by Matt Tait.

Ben McLemore's official nametag at the NBA Draft. Photo by Matt Tait. by Jesse Newell

11:34 a.m. update

Ben McLemore is in New York City and is just waiting his turn to meet with the media. He'll head in around noon and will be in three with a couple of other potential No. 1 picks, Maryland's Alex Len and Indiana's Victor Oladipo.

Nerlens Noel is in the first group along with a guy most KU fans don't want to hear about: Michigan's Trey Burke.

About an hour of interviews here at the Westin in Times Square and then it'll be time to pound the pavement for some more fun.

Stay tuned for much more from the Big Apple, including audio, video and updates from McLemore's afternoon.

Original Post: 8:16 a.m.

Kansas guard Ben McLemore celebrates after drilling a three to start overtime against Iowa State on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Ben McLemore celebrates after drilling a three to start overtime against Iowa State on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Good morning, KU fans, and welcome to another NBA Draft Eve.

For the fourth straight year I'm out in New York City to cover the draft and will be following former Kansas superstar Ben McLemore off and on throughout the day, trying to get a read on how he's feeling and what he's thinking the day before his dream of becoming a professional ballplayer comes true.

As always, we've got some media availability through the NBA around noon to kick things off and I'll be sending back audio and video clips, photos and updates as that unfolds.

Later this afternoon, there are a couple of other appearances that McLemore will make and I'll do my best to be right in the thick of them to bring you the best possible look at McLemore's big day.

I'll try to update this blog as often as possible but will be on the move quite a bit and will likely rely heavily on my Twitter account for some of the updates, so if you're not following me already be sure to do so before the fun gets started.

For now, here's a quick look at a pre-draft video featuring McLemore followed by some interesting draft numbers and trends regarding KU and the Big 12 from the past 20 years.

Charge up your computers and iPhones and stay tuned in to KUSports.com throughout the day.

• McLemore pre-draft video from NBA.com

http://www.nba.com/video/channels/draft/2013/06/19/20130712-ben-mclemore-prospect.nba

• Facts, figures and fun from the past 20 years

With four players eligible for selection in Thursday's NBA Draft and two of them locks to be chosen, the Kansas University men's basketball program figures to keep its spot near the top of the list of college hoops programs that produce the most pros.

KU has sent 27 players to the NBA during the past 20 seasons. That's tied with North Carolina for third most among all NCAA Div. I programs and trails Kentucky (30) and Duke (29) by just a couple of picks.

While KU has produced a high number of NBA players at a steady rate during the past 20 years — dating back to the 1993 draft when Rex Walters was picked 16th and Adonis Jordan was taken 42nd — things have really began to heat up in the past few seasons.

After seeing just two players make the leap during his first four seasons in town, KU coach Bill Self has heard the names of 12 of his guys called during the past five seasons, with five guys picked during 2008 (13. Brandon Rush, 27. Darrell Arthur, 34. Mario Chalmers, 52. Darnell Jackson and 56. Sasha Kaun), three in 2011 (13. Markieff Morris, 14. Marcus Morris, 49. Josh Selby) and two each in 2010 (11. Cole Aldrich, 12. Xavier Henry) and 2012 (5. Thomas Robinson, 41. Tyshawn Taylor).

KU's current streak of three consecutive drafts in which Jayhawks were chosen marks the school's longest stretch in the past two decades. That streak includes three straight drafts in which Self players landed in the lottery (Top 14), also a school best in the Roy Williams and Bill Self eras.

Barring some unforeseen pre-draft craziness, Self's lottery streak should grow to four straight years when McLemore is taken in Thursday's draft in Brooklyn, N.Y. Although his stock has been unstable during the past couple of months, most analysts and draft experts expect McLemore to go no lower than seventh on Thursday night. Some have him still in the hunt for the No. 1 pick, others have him pencilled in at No. 2 and most have him being taken in the Top 5.

Joining McLemore as a potential, perhaps even likely first-round selection, is former KU center Jeff Withey, whom experts and analysts have anywhere from No. 20 in Round 1 to the top of the second round.

Forward Travis Releford and guard Elijah Johnson are the other two Jayhawks who could hear their names called on Thursday.

Regardless of whether those guys are picked or not, the selection of McLemore and Withey should keep KU near the top of college basketball world and may even expand the sizable gap KU has on the rest of the Big 12 Conference.

During that same time span, only two other Big 12 schools (Texas and Iowa State) have even reached double digits in NBA draft picks. The Longhorns have sent 19 players to the pro ranks — most recently Tristan Thompson (4), Jordan Hamilton (26) and Corey Joseph (29) in the 2011 draft — and the Cyclones have watched 10 players get drafted during the past 20 drafts, with Royce White at No. 16 in 2011 being the most recent.

Oklahoma (9), Oklahoma State (7), Baylor (6), Texas Tech (5), West Virginia (4), Kansas State (2) and TCU (2) round out the rest of the Big 12's NBA Draft production during the past two decades. As you can see, the bottom seven schools on the list have combined to outperform KU by only a slim margin of 35-27.

So, what does this all mean? Not much, really. Although the Jayhawks have placed more players on NBA benches during the past 20 years, those players have not always panned out. In fact, only eight Jayhawks during the past two decades have logged more than 20 minutes per game throughout their NBA careers and more than half of KU's total draftees during that time are no longer in the league.

Still, there's something to be said for continually putting guys in a position to be drafted and both Williams and Self certainly did a solid job of that.

Where McLemore and Withey or even Releford and Johnson fit into the overall picture will not be known for several years. But come midnight on Thursday, it will be known which of those guys added to KU's already impressive and ever-expanding list of NBA draft picks.

For those who like to keep score on these kinds of things, both DraftExpress.com and NBADraft.net project that KU, UK and Duke will have two players drafted on Thursday night and UNC will have one. So even though the Jayhawks may not make up any ground on the leaders, they could gain some separation on Carolina.

Kansas guard Ben McLemore elevates for a two-handed jam against Chattanooga during the second half on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Ben McLemore elevates for a two-handed jam against Chattanooga during the second half on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

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Comments

Michael Luby 1 year, 3 months ago

Ben! Why did you hire Blackstock!? Why, for the love of God, why!?

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melrank 1 year, 3 months ago

Ben is taking a beating for choosing Blackstock. I understand the negativity if you look at it based on what is portrayed in the media. Throw in potential penalties to KU and its easy for a KU fan to go crazy with this news.

So, I keep asking, "why did Ben go this way"? Could be a ton of reasons but there's part of me wondering if Blackstock (or one of his team) isn't threatening Ben to either sign with me or they will tell more of the story - meaning additional allegations that have yet to come out. Blackstock could make up any story to coerce Ben into signing.

Did Ben ink a deal with the devil to protect KU?

Conspiracy theorists can have fun with this one.

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Rock_Chalk_25 1 year, 3 months ago

Sounds like a legit theory at first...but then you have to think if Blackstock's true aspirations are becoming a successful NBA agent, his best interests wouldn't be to make enemies with a potential star in the league. The players all talk to each other, and if Blackstock did try to blackmail Ben, well then he won't last very long in the business.

Still though, I could see Ben being so loyal to KU that he would agree to something like that. And agents are about as shady as they come, so the thought isn't too farfetched. Something to think about I guess.

As far as the draft, I think Mclemore, Oladipo, and Porter will be the three most successful players in this class.

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Ryan Zimmerman 1 year, 3 months ago

I don't understand still why Tait's head image speaks to KU football only, yet he does these basketball posts....

1

clevelandjayhawker 1 year, 3 months ago

Do scalpers sell tickets to the draft? if so how much do those run?

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Jason Keller 1 year, 3 months ago

lol Matt has the greatest job ever. I'm at work "working" and he's in New York chilling about to cover KU draft night... Ehh my ship will come in! lol

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KGphoto 1 year, 3 months ago

If you could take Ray Allen with a 42 inch vert, in a draft without a surefire superstar, wouldn’t you? He’s the only guy in this draft I could see potentially being a team’s leading scorer in year one. Maybe not the Heat’s or the Thunder’s, but a lottery team’s leading scorer.

1

Kevin Huffman 1 year, 3 months ago

I might "Like" if at all possible...BUT - no freakin' way! Let's be optimistic and say he actually goes to Orlando.

I'd be willing to be he doesn't even start over Afflalo and has to come off the bench.

J. Nelson, Afflalo, T. Harris, G. Davis, Vucevic starting lineup.

MAYBE he's the "6th man", but I bet Afflalo & maybe T. Harris and maybe EVEN G. Davis will score more.

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KGphoto 1 year, 3 months ago

Didn’t say he would lead a team in scoring. The question is, who do you think in this draft has a BETTER chance of leading a team in scoring his first year? Vaughn has Orlando spreading the scoring around because he lacks a superstar. I think Ben has as much scoring talent as any player in the draft. With 5 guys scoring around 15/game. He could lead that team with nothing but 3 pointers, fast breaks and free throws until he gets his handles tightened up.

Afflalo has improved every season in the league and I like him. He was my guy in Denver, but he’s hitting his ceiling. Do you stick with a guy at his ceiling or do you go with a guy who can take you to another level in a year or two?

1

notjustbread 1 year, 3 months ago

nice color selection Ben. Way to represent. Speaking of representation....nevermind, I think you have had your fill on that one. God bless.

0

Benjamin Piehler 1 year, 3 months ago

Go get em' Ben!

... And don't let the NBA change your strong character.

0

JayDocMD 1 year, 3 months ago

ESPN just released a new mock draft that has BMac dropping out of the lottery.

The only reason given was "pants."

1

Adam Collins 1 year, 3 months ago

Saw a tweet by McLemore thanking Sprint for the new iPad they gave him. Looks like the money/gifts are starting to trickle in already.

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Ethan Berger 1 year, 3 months ago

Once he drops it, the NCAA will come in and fine him and reprimand him.

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Danny Hernandez 1 year, 3 months ago

Man, I'm so pissed, I work less than 6 blocks from Times Square,,,why didn't I know about this sooner?

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KEITHMILES05 1 year, 3 months ago

That white bell is hideous. LMAO.

Best to Ben and truly, truly want him to be successful.

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DDDHawk 1 year, 3 months ago

Ben- I am so excited for you. You have worked so hard, been so great to the KU fans, and you deserve the best! We are all so proud of you! Matt, great article as usual!

2

The_poster_kusports_needs 1 year, 3 months ago

Good idea insulting teenage KU fans on not only the internet, but a site run by the Lawrence newspaper.

yeesh

0

Bill Skeet 1 year, 3 months ago

Matt and Jesse-- check a typo in the caption of the photo of Ben and Trey:

"terrorist attacks from Sept. 11, 2011." Obviously should be 2001.

I understand blogs aren't the top priority and won't be perfect... but, in case there's reuse of that caption in the paper or elsewhere, might be good to have that fixed.

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