Saturday, July 28, 2012

Self: Ben McLemore’s talent ‘off the charts,’ but still learning

Kansas guard Ben McLemore elevates for a jam during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 20, 2012, at the Horejsi Center.

Kansas guard Ben McLemore elevates for a jam during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 20, 2012, at the Horejsi Center.


Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self, who lavished praise on red-shirt freshman Ben McLemore during an interview at the July 8 MLB All-Star Celebrity Softball Game in Kauffman Stadium, again lauded the Big 12 freshman of the year candidate — this time on ESPNU.

“Ben’s talent level is off the charts,” Self said Friday on Katz’s Korner, a show hosted by ESPN basketball expert Andy Katz. It was broadcast from the AAU Super Showcase in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

“He’s good. I mean, he’s as talented as just about anybody we’ve had come through there. Now he doesn’t know how to plug himself into a game yet,” Self cautioned of the 6-5, 185-pounder from St. Louis.

“We had a scrimmage the other day. We’re practicing to go to Europe. We had some possessions and it was like the 50th possession before he took his first shot. He doesn’t know how to plug himself in and he’s so unselfish, but he’s a Brandon Rush type. He’s a guy who could be a tremendous player for us and hopefully an all-league performer really early in his career.”

McLemore and Jamari Traylor (6-8, 215, Chicago) practiced but did not play in games last season after being named partial qualifiers by the NCAA.

“The eligibility center ruled they could go to school but they could not participate,” Self said. “We thought that was a pretty tough ruling, but I really believe the kids — they never once batted an eye. They never once complained. They were sad. They’ve both taken 36 hours approximately — 34-36 hours thus far. Both have above a 3.0 grade point average so they learned from not getting an opportunity to play and focus on academics.”

Earlier, at the celebrity softball game, Self said: “Ben should be as good as anybody we’ve ever had at stealing us extra possessions. I think he’ll be the best defender we’ve ever had. I also think he’s as athletic as anybody we’ve ever had, and he can shoot. Fitting in the pieces and getting him to understand how to play, he’s not quite there, obviously. If he keeps improving at the same rate, he’ll make a lot of money.”

Okie State to contend?: Self, who has led the Jayhawks to eight straight regular-season Big 12 titles, lists a darkhorse candidate for the 2012-13 crown.

“When you mention schools, my alma mater ... I think Oklahoma State is going to be terrific. I think on paper they have the best team,” Self said.

“I think they have the most talent. With the kids they signed and the kids returning ... they had a good player sitting out last year who tore his ACL. I really like their talent level.”

OSU returns 6-7 sophomore LeBryan Nash to go with the country’s No. 10 prospect nationally — Marcus Smart, a 6-4 freshman from Flower Mound, Texas. J.P. Olukemi, a 6-6 senior, is coming off ACL surgery.

Self said he was in favor of the Big 12 staying at 10 teams following the addition of TCU and West Virginia to make up for the loss of Missouri and Texas A&M.;

“A lot of people still think, ‘Well, you need to go to 12 or go bigger. That’s the thing everybody needs to do.’ I don’t understand why bigger necessarily means better,” Self said. “When you have 10 teams in your league and six are going to the NCAA Tournament, that’s not a bad percentage. Obviously there’s more revenue to share between 10 than there would be 12 or 14 or whatever. I like the number we are at.”


bad_dog 9 years, 9 months ago

Perhaps a change in user name to "look_at_me_look_at_me" would suffice?

Then again...

chriz 9 years, 9 months ago

STOKED about this year's team. Looks to be a pretty fast-paced team this year...Curious to see how Withey will fit in.

KJD 9 years, 9 months ago

"(H)e’s a Brandon Rush type. He’s a guy who could be a tremendous player for us and hopefully an all-league performer really early in his career.”

BRush became the first freshman to make the coaches all-Big 12 team. Those 2006 Jayhawks tied Texas for the regular season championship then beat Texas in the Tournament Final. That team started Robinson(So), Chalmers(Fr), Rush(Fr), Wright(Fr), Kaun(So).

Add a player like a Freshman Rush to last years national runner-up starters of Johnson(Sr), Releford(Sr) and Withy(Sr) and that is a great core with loads of talent on the roster.

Robert Brock 9 years, 9 months ago

"Fitting in the pieces and getting him to understand how to play, he’s not quite there, obviously."

That could take a couple of years.

omng392 9 years, 9 months ago

Ben and Jamari way to go on the 3.0 GPA and showing the NCAA that you should have been eligible to play last year!!!

REHawk 9 years, 9 months ago

Mighty fine praise coming from a wily coach who ordinarily parcels out kudos to newcomers in the manner of Scrooge McDuck hoarding nickels. Of course, Ben can barely be labeled a newcomer, since he did practice a semester with the unit which he helped to lock up a league title. It is encouraging to know for certain that the Jayhawks will field at least 4 impact starters this season...and have access to a bevy of contenders for the 4 position and serious minutes of relief at every position except, perhaps, Withey's. From Self's comments, I get the feeling that Ben is focusing on the many tangentials to supplement his natural ability to score. Sounds like a terrific work in progress. Our other first year players should glean earnest insight and direction from association with Ben's work ethic.

REHawk 9 years, 9 months ago

However, Ben, don't forget to shoot. Elsewise, your coach will roll out Brandon's treadmill!

Jack Wilson 9 years, 9 months ago

This is a good article.

The good news: "He's as talented as anyone we've had come through the program", says Self. The better news: Self expects him to be an all-league guy soon. The best news: McLemore is, in fact, a lockdown-type defender. The crazy, nearly delusional, news: "I think he’ll be the best defender we’ve ever had.", says Self. He did say "best .. ever." Delusional only if it didn't come from Coach Self. The negative Nancy news: He's prone to disappear on the offensive end.

This is the stuff of which real optimism is born. Self has no reason to provide such high expectations or praise. He could have easily tempered his comments. He knows he has a player. Perhaps the best player on this team.

Much like last season, this team will be defense first. Everything will flow from the defense. We will play games in the 60s. We can win 58-54 and be happy.

The question is .. can we score enough? Negative Nancy stuff -- EJ shoots like last season; McLemore doesn't fit in with the offense as Self alludes above, and doesn't seize opportunities; Releford scores only when gift wrapped on a platter, and even then he reconsiders; Our 4 man plays like a freshman, or KY on the offensive end; And Withey is defense first. This team could be offensively challenged.

Good news. We still win 20+ even with that.

But I expect a different offensive team. Expect 1) EJ to be the best shooter on the team, 40-45% from 3. 2) Releford to take a big step forward offensively. 3) Andrew White to be the real deal. 4) McLemore to "get it" offensively. 5) Ellis to average at least 10 per game.

I don't expect Withey to be anything but an opportunistic scorer. Not a feed the post, Aldrich or Kieff sort of guy.

But back to defense. What is one way you know you are really a Bill Self-KU basketball fan? When you appreciate the defense over the offense. So, we have 6-5 and 6-6 lockdown defenders, we have EJ at 6-4 who is very good defensively, and we have the eraser (Withey) in the middle, whose reputation precedes him (meaning, he'll continue to get the benefit of the doubt on foul calls).

Pretty exciting stuff to me.

Phoggie_Thinking 9 years, 9 months ago

Could it be Self is motivating Elijah with these words?

Steve Kubler 9 years, 9 months ago

I've always felt that Releford can score when ever he wishes. When he decides to go to the hoop it appears effortless. However I've thought about mailing HCBS a cattle prod for inspirational purposes after a couple of different games. If McLemore plays the same way I just might!

If both of them take their offense to the level they appear capable this season is going to be incredibly fun to watch.

I am with you on the defensive end. The guards should be able to cheat a bit on passing lanes knowing they have Withey ready to clean up their mistakes. Withey could use some muscle to back him and we will have to see how that plays out.

Anyone hear if we are going to be able to watch the Europe games yet? I'm getting antsy and need a basketball fix!

Lorena Ben G Solis 9 years, 9 months ago

I am so excited about this young team we have allot of young talent & experience as well as every year ready for title run RCJHGKU

KansasComet 9 years, 9 months ago

This team could be much better than last years squad. The potential is there. Good shooting point guards, excellent shooting guards, versatile small forwards, young and hungry power forwards and a potential All - America Center. All returning Seniors have paid their dues, and know the system. This team has a chance to be special.

Ron Franklin 9 years, 9 months ago

Best ever?...meaning better than Chalmers, Rush, Russ Rob, & Ty?

I can't wait to see this defense.

soapisurfriend 9 years, 9 months ago

Magic just named Jacque Vaughn head coach.

Jack Wilson 9 years, 9 months ago

Dat b so jackd; shak sur 2 b mad n crazee u no. he a jac hatr.

Martin Rosenblum 9 years, 9 months ago

What a compliment!

I expect DManning to be the next NBA coach with Jayhawk ties.

Ben Kane 9 years, 9 months ago

should be the lead story this morning, oh well.

Alohahawk 9 years, 9 months ago

Couldn't be happier. I just got a new favorite to root for in the NBA. May not win a championship next year, but give Jacque a few years to turn them around. "Rock Chalk Jacque in Orlando" Coach Vaughn. Now, make mush mouth S***Shack eat his words.

Question: I'm well aware Larry Brown coached, but has any previous Jayhawk "player" ever been promoted to head coach in the NBA? And is Jacque the youngest ever as a head coach?

Ahh, just like that battery rabbit that keeps going and going: The KU coaching tree keeps growing and growing.

kukuku 9 years, 9 months ago

I'm really happy for Jacque, but I wonder if the Magic are going to make him into their "fall guy". It seems like they're about to go full force into rebuilding mode, and Jacque might get saddled with the blame for the next couple seasons and then get shafted when they get some lottery picks and are ready to compete again. I really hope I'm wrong, though.

cool_beans 9 years, 9 months ago

Laying the Boom Stick down the Big 12 this year

jay381 9 years, 9 months ago

This should be a great season in both FB and BB. I know I am definitely looking forward to both.

Weis is bringing back at least an air of "we will be better" and hope after the last two years of Gill. I never thought football would be so bad as to think at least we can line up and execute a play without a penalty. The strides he has made in just brining back respect for the program and high quality coaches and athletes is amazing in such a short time. They may not win a lot of games this year but at lest we can see hope for the future. I mean what this guy inherited was just a disgrace. AD Z sure bought himself a lot of good will with the hire of Weis.

I do not know how anyone could not be excited about this basketball team. Really it is like we get two years of recruiting classes at once. It is impossible to think of the combinations Self has this year and not be excited. Fortunately we have an experienced and successful coach that is a master motivator in keeping all the pieces happy and movable.

I currently live far outside the area. Does anyone on staff know if or where any of these International Exhibition Games will be broadcast or streamed? If so I know I and probably many others would love the information. I am ready to see this combination of youth and experience blend together into a team as on someone of the stature of Bill Self can. .

Ben Simonett 9 years, 9 months ago

Between EJ and Mclemore Self is going to have some leapers in his back court next season to run those quick hitter lobs to the rim he's shown us from time to time.

From everything i've seen i don't think Self is over hyping Mclemores potential. the kid really is an athletic freak. there's a youtube video somewhere showing him take off from one step inside the free throw line and dunking easily(and that was his junior year of high school!)

with all that said, he's still gonna be a freshman. you have to remember that.

REHawk 9 years, 9 months ago

Bittersweet trail of the BenMac saga, he really does show up as the player of optimal forecast, then grabs the big dollars for a quick exit. If it has to happen, I hope he helps lead this team back to the national title game. Would be unfair to criticize a recruit who already has lost one year of his youth, good hops and earning power to harsh NCAA and Big 12 punitive judgments. He could have pulled up stakes and taken his game to the Euro League. From what I am reading about predictions for him, he is wise to have stayed and patiently waited his chance to shine as a Jayhawk. Kaching, kaching, kaching!

jaybate 9 years, 9 months ago

BenMac may be as good as Self says.

Brandon is a reassuring comparison to fans, because Brandon produced almost immediately, and hung around for a ring, because of a knee injury.

But there are other comparisons.

Xavier had an NBA body, and he flashed brilliance early, but then it seemed that when he was not to be made a first or second option, but a third option, he appeared to sand bag a bit and appeared to play with an eye to avoiding injury.

Self said Josh Selby was "a pro type player." Self said Josh could be all-league his first season. Self started Josh ahead of returning letterman Brady Morningstar. Josh looked like gold for a couple games, but he was prone to pop tarts, then got injured, then vanished for awhile seemingly unwilling to play on the boot, then seemed to come out fighting when his posse seemed to advise him that protecting his ankle, might label him too soft to play injured.

What should we expect? Brandon? Or someone closer to Xavier/Josh?

Time will have to tell. I sure can't.

But we can ask why Self is touting BenMac so high? Why now?

Self has senior PG EJ, who he once said was the greatest impact athlete he ever recruited. EJ ought to be ready for a stellar season, if his knee is healed, and Self could be hyping EJ, but he's hyping BenMac.

Self has senior Jeff Withey, who ought to be ready for a stellar season. Self could be hyping Withey, but he's hyping BenMac.

Why BenMac, but not EJ and Jeff?

This appears to be some thing of a smoke screen by Self IMHO.

My hunch is that Self knows EJ is going to take awhile to come around and he wants to take the focus off EJ.

I also guess that Self knows Withey is going to have a red X on his forehead, unless KU has another credible threat.

Thus it appears to me that BenMac is getting hyped to make teams view KU as a triple threat on offense in hopes of taking some off the heat off Withey and EJ.

jaybate 9 years, 9 months ago

BenMac no longer looks like a skinny kid.

jaybate 9 years, 9 months ago

"We had some possessions and it was like the 50th possession before he [BenMac] took his first shot. He doesn’t know how to plug himself in and he’s so unselfish, but he’s a Brandon Rush type."--Self

How does a guy practice with a team for an entire semester and still not know how to "plug himself into a game" after 50 possessions?

I swear, listening to coaches sometimes reminds me of listening to Pravda in the days of the old USSR. You know its propaganda, but you can't quite figure out why they are doing it.

KansasComet 9 years, 9 months ago

Great points, I tend to agree with you. Thanks for an enjoyable read.

Ben Simonett 9 years, 9 months ago


I envision Self bringing out the famous treadmill he put Rush on everytime he passed up an open look in practice.

Ted Hume 9 years, 9 months ago

Indeed; self's motivational remarks over the years could be fodder for more than a team of conspiracy theorists, game-theory strategists, and doctoral dissertations. He's proved to be a true master of pulling the right strings at the right times, and being so many steps ahead of not only his players, but the rest of us. It's nearly impossible to comprehend all that is at work with Self's timely "player evaluations" to the media. One thing's for certain: he knows exactly what he's doing- and it gives us something to work on during the off season...

Jayhawk_4_Life 9 years, 9 months ago

In Bill I trust....B Mac should be very entertaining

Helen Gross 9 years, 9 months ago

Does anyone if there r going to be half seasons again this year?

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