Sunday, October 21, 2012

Quick study: Ben McLemore hit books — hard

Kansas University's Ben McLemore shoots over Switzerland's Dusan Mladjan in Fribourg, Switzerland, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012.

Kansas University's Ben McLemore shoots over Switzerland's Dusan Mladjan in Fribourg, Switzerland, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012.



AP Photo /KEYSTONE/Peter Schneider

Kansas University's Ben McLemore shoots over Switzerland's Dusan Mladjan in Fribourg, Switzerland, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012.

Ben McLemore had a heart-to-heart talk with his mom, Sonya, in the summer of 2011 before beginning his academic and athletic career at Kansas University.

“She told me to think about three main things. She said, ‘Remember this: B.B.B.,’” McLemore, KU’s 6-foot-5, 185-pound red-shirt freshman basketball guard from St. Louis, said. “I said, ‘B.B.B? What does that mean?’ She was like, ‘Ben, Books and Basketball.’ I heard what she said. I cherish that now. I keep working on my grades and stuff in class.”

The NCAA in October of 2011 deemed McLemore a partial qualifier, largely because his transcripts were scattered from four high schools — two in his hometown, as well as Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., and Christian Life Center in Houston.

Saddled with the stigma of being ineligible for participation in games the entire 2011-12 season, McLemore did the only thing he could do: keep his head up while following mom’s advice.

He spent countless hours in the gym with fellow partial qualifier Jamari Traylor first semester before practicing with the team second semester in accordance with NCAA rules. Also, like Chicago native Traylor, he hit the books hard. McLemore said he recorded a 3.2 grade-point average encompassing 36 hours of coursework.

Ben was a finalist for KU’s “Crimson Climb” Award for academic excellence at the 2012 Rock Chalk Choice Awards — a black-tie event in September at the Lied Center.

“A lot of people didn’t think I could do it,” McLemore said of conquering college classwork. “They thought sitting out would disagree with me, that I wouldn’t be able to stay on my books. I worked hard in class.”

That was something new for McLemore, who said he never put in enough time studying in grade school and high school.

“I do like class. Class is great,” McLemore said with a smile. “It’s like I wake up (and say), ‘I’ve got to go to class. I can’t wait to go to class.’ In college, you learn so much, like different types of history I didn’t know about in high school. It’s helped me better myself as a person.”

KU coach Bill Self met regularly with McLemore last year to monitor his academic progress and state of mind.

“He came in my office one day, and I said, ‘How are you doing in school?’ He said, ‘Coach, I like it,’” Self said, emphasizing the word “like.”

“He liked learning. There was a different emphasis on what was important to him, which has now made him more balanced. He has matured. You watch him. He’s quiet, unassuming, a pleaser. He wants everybody to like him, maybe too much. I wish he had a little more ‘dog’ in him, so to speak. We’ll get that out of him in time. This kid works. He’s going to be really good.”

KU fans received a glimpse of McLemore’s raw basketball talent at the Oct. 12 Late Night in the Phog. He skied high to finish a slam dunk off a lob pass from freshman Andrew White.

“Just from an athletic standpoint — shooting, length, slide, rebounding — he can do about as many things as we have had here,” Self said. “He reminds me a lot of Brandon (Rush, now with Golden State Warriors) in that regard, but we struggled with Brandon being aggressive, if you guys remember. So that is one thing that Ben is going to have to be good at.”

McLemore — he entered college as’s No. 17-rated recruit in the high school Class of 2011 — admits he has been hesitant to speak up, electing to be a sponge in his first three semesters and two summer sessions at KU.

“I learned a lot last year, especially from the guards — Tyshawn (Taylor), Elijah (Johnson), Travis (Releford) and (Conner) Teahan,” McLemore said. “They were talking to me every day, especially Elijah, about things I needed to do, things I needed to work on and how I’ve been through some struggles because he’s been through some things, too.

“Right now, getting to play, I’m excited more than anything else. I’ve waited for this day to come. I couldn’t participate last year. I can now. Words can’t explain it. I’m so excited.”

Self likes the fact McLemore didn’t belabor one subject last year: his being ineligible.

“He’s not a complainer,” Self said. “I thought he was dealt a bad hand, personally (by NCAA). He proved everybody wrong who said he wasn’t academically prepared because he goes and makes a 3.0 and passes 36 hours. Taking basketball away from him in a weird way made him like school. For his life, maybe it wasn’t a bad thing at all.”

McLemore’s close family members are, of course, impressed at his development.

“He’s working hard, being dedicated and taking advantage of an opportunity to get an education,” said McLemore’s cousin, Richard Boyd. “To accomplish something out of life, you’ve got to work and sacrifice. I tell him you can do anything in life if you put your mind to it.

“But it’s always education first in life ... education first.”

Who knows? McLemore, a new fan of academia, might even stick around more than one full season to continue his studies while improving his skills for what could be a long NBA career.

“I definitely could stay more than one year,” McLemore said. “This is going to be my first year playing. Definitely I could stay, getting the feel of the program and keep on going forward toward my goal.”


yates33333 9 years, 7 months ago

The world needs more moms like Ben's. I know. I had one years ago, and she made all the difference.

Scott MacWilliams 9 years, 7 months ago

Hey Ben! Finally!!! We can all hardly wait to see you out on the floor for real, no more sideline patrol for you!!! I hope that you find all your classes inspiring and hook up with some great teachers, too. Seems like you could be part of something VERY special if you stay for three years. Maybe be part of two national championships???

Rock Chalk, BMac Hawk!!!

Ben Simonett 9 years, 7 months ago


You realize the ultimate praise needs to go to Self's ability to teach kids how to be media saavy right?

The kids have been coached on what to say to reporters since day one. Plus its LJW, I wouldn't be surprised if many of the more controversial quotes never make it to print.

melrank 9 years, 7 months ago

I'm sure Self educates these kids once on campus, but follow Francamp, Selden, and Mason on Twitter, they seem quality. At the same time I'm routinely embarrassed by MOST other recruits on Twitter. There's a connection why the embarrassing ones don't end up at KU IMO.

Steve Reigle 9 years, 7 months ago

You can coach the words but you can't coach the attitude. Attitude says it all. Ben McLemore is the real deal. Great kid.

RJ King 9 years, 7 months ago

Ben has B-Rush written all over him.

Ben Kliewer 9 years, 7 months ago

3.2?! That is not too shabby for college course work. Especially if you're doing a full workout schedule on top of it. I don't care what courses you're taking.

Ron Prichard 9 years, 7 months ago

I was going to make this point, too. 15 hours a semester is considered full time, so he was well above that each semester. Throw in the time committment for basketball (even the semester he had to sit out) and it is even more impressive.

pea 9 years, 7 months ago

I understood it as 36 hours over three semesters.

Ron Prichard 9 years, 7 months ago

You might be right. The article doesn't really say, although the paragraph where the 36 hours is mentioned talks about first and second semester (albiet related to basketball practice). Still, that's a pretty solid course load for a kid with all the other time committments.

Also, I think I actually misstated my point by saying 15 hours is considered full time. When I was in school, you had to have at least 12 hours to be full time. You needed to average at least 15 hours for most degrees if you wanted to graduate in 4 years (120 hours cumulative). So, we always considered 15 full time.

Robin Smith 9 years, 7 months ago

12 is still the minimum though you're correct that won't likely get you to a 4 year graduation.

If this is two semesters then that's 18 per which is pretty admirable.

KansasComet 9 years, 7 months ago

This team has a chance to be special. I believe there are at least six players on this team with the potential to hit 20+ on any given night. Elijah, Ben, Perry, Jeff , Travis, and Kevin. The points should be there. Now if we defend and rebound, then watch out!

clevelandjayhawker 9 years, 7 months ago

I like KY a lot, but 20 out of him may not be too realistic. I might replace Andrew White for Kevin Young, but who knows how much PT he will get. +1 for Def and Rebounds. Rock Chalk

KansasComet 9 years, 7 months ago

Thanks, I w as going back and forth on that one. I believe Kevin Young, based on the 1st Ohio State game last year, has the potential to go for 20. I hope you are 100% right about Andrew White.

MoralVictory 9 years, 7 months ago

Once upon a time, before Billion $$ TV contracts, incoming freshmen didn't play varsity sports so that they could adjust to becoming successful students. Ben certainly benefitted from the time and space - congratulations to him on both his attitude and his effort.

Steve Reigle 9 years, 7 months ago

But they did play JV that freshman year. I'm not sure there's all that much less time required for JV.

REHawk 9 years, 7 months ago

From every article I have read about Ben, the one factor holding him back this season might be his getting so juiced that his adrenalin bounds through the roof. Thankfully, the Jayhawk schedule plays into incremental toughness prior to January league play. He will have a competitive December to work his way through that first year sensation. Bill Self continues to tell us that Ben is a very special recruit. I am hyped to view his development before the Madness of March.

GabrielMichael 9 years, 7 months ago

Oh my goodness I can't wait to see Big Ben play this year! Nice work B Mac! Keep it up! Your determination in the face of adversity is inspiring!

Brochawk 9 years, 7 months ago

So, who's going to start on the 30th? I have it as Johnson, Releford, McLemore, Whithey and Young. Isn't the starting forward spot Mr. Young's until someone takes it away from him by out playing him during a game, even if its exhibition? He had great minutes during last year's tournament and deserves to start.

Robert Brock 9 years, 7 months ago

I would put my money on Young starting over Ellis early in the season. Self typically starts guys that know the system and play hard-nosed D and limit mistakes. But, unless Young has made serious strides with consistency or Ellis struggles to adapt to the college game far more than expected, we should see Ellis take over that starting spot somewhere in the first third of the season, possibly from Day 1.

Marcia Parsons 9 years, 7 months ago

I'm not sure that Young has learned to play "hard-nosed D" yet, but no doubt he is further along than Ellis who has just started learning. Young is sure great on the boards and put-backs.

clevelandjayhawker 9 years, 7 months ago

Thats what mine was a few months back, but I got a lot of ridicule from some who assured me Ellis would start at the 4. Biggest battle to me is going to be the Tharpe/Adams backup PG spot, cant wait for the season to start. Rock Chalk.

IgnorantYokel 9 years, 7 months ago

Starters: EJ BMac TRel Ellis Withey

Bench: K. Young; A. White; 1 of Tharpe, Adams; 1 of Peters, Lucas, Traylor

SDSurferFan 9 years, 7 months ago

In case you missed TRobs dunk last night over DHoward. The reaction of the Lakers bench is great.

Matt Kenton 9 years, 7 months ago

Wow. And so nice to see him not pausing to stare at DH, beating his chest, pulling his jersey, etc.

justinryman 9 years, 7 months ago

He actually went by Kobe too and Kobe just watched.

He did it and acted like he has done it before.

Oh yeah remember Baylor last year?!!!

KGphoto 9 years, 7 months ago

I had to watch a couple of times before I noticed what you were talking about with the Lakers bench. Priceless! So hard to see Robinson wearing purple though.

Martin Rosenblum 9 years, 7 months ago

I like the look from Pay Gasol after TRob went past him following that dunk!

I also like the fact that this game was at Staples Center and that it was Howard's first game in a Laker's uni. There's a little different version of the dunk on the King's website.

MimiHawk 9 years, 7 months ago

LOL @ DHoward's What The Heck was that reaction towards Kobe after the dunk! RCJH T-Rob !

HawkKlaw 9 years, 7 months ago

Having a 3.2 GPA over the course of two 18 hour semesters is no easy feat. Keep it up BMac!

Miguel Colón 9 years, 7 months ago

18 HRS A SEMESTER! WOW! I remember when I was in college and 12-15 hours a semester was a lot. Good going BMac! You have my adoration! Wasnt Julian an academic also?

Cartemus 9 years, 7 months ago

Most of the players take summer courses, so it was probably something like 15 each semester and then 6 over the summer. Still impressive either way.

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 7 months ago

I think the GPA is amazing and the amount of coursework; however, please note this probably includes at least one summer (if not two) to get ready. 15-15-6, is probably more realistic of what he did. This post isn't to reduce the impressiveness of a 3.2, but I don't think he was taking 18 credit hours a semester. I'm guessing the A he gets for his basketball coursework additionally aids. 3.2 is nothing to be ashamed about, I just think there is probably more to the story then some of the above posts. Again 15 hours would be considered fulltime.

I'd also hope that KU would work out a study abroad credit hours system when they made their European trip.

Austin Bergstrom 9 years, 7 months ago

if he keeps it up, he may be able to graduate in 3 yrs. Just another incentive to stay more than one year

RJ King 9 years, 7 months ago

Regarding character -

Next year the upperclassman leadership will consist of Wesley and Tharpe. Wesley doesn't have the cred (unranked sometimes walk-on), and Tharpe can't go it alone no matter what his potential is (or isn't) as a future coach. Therefore, it will primarily be sophomores leading freshmen.

I haven't read enough from Traylor and Rio (and I know they are all coached what to say to the media), but so far Ellis, Peters, Lucas, White, and MacLemore seem to have what it takes to be excellent role models. And by the same token (though I haven't heard enough from Mason yet), the class including Greene, Frankamp, and Selden seems like a pretty easy one to coach.

Coincidence or design?

Tony Bandle 9 years, 7 months ago

My opinion?

Next season, the mantle of leadership will be thrust upon him and he will reluctantly take it.......I am talking about Perry Ellis. He won't seek the position, but for the good of the team, he will step up to the plate and lead.

Nathan Scholl 9 years, 7 months ago

Way to go Ben. Proud of you and can't wait to see you excel on the court as well. I love the character of this years' team! RCJH!!

Tony Bandle 9 years, 7 months ago

WOW!! 2013-14 roster...two seniors [Wesley and Roberts]....two juniors [Tharpe and Garrett]....nine sophomores {Adams, White, Manning, Self, McLemore-hopefully, Traylor,Peters, Lucas, Ellis].....and five freshmen [Frankamp, Greene, Mason, Selden and Embiid-counting my chickens!!]

Three of the top four upper classmen don't play and the fourth is shaky, This is a Jayhawk team that will be uber talented and uber young!!

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but if Wesley is on Cuz Keith's nickel and no one leaves, we have no schollies to give for 2014-1015!!

KGphoto 9 years, 7 months ago

I'm not predicting anything, but if wedging that last blue-chip onto the roster was a game of Bizarro Musical Chairs, I think it's "plausible" Frank Mason could be standing in front of the ejector chair when the music stopped.

KGphoto 9 years, 7 months ago

Oh wait. I read too fast. You have '14-'15. Yes that's interesting. Hmmm.

Sally Presson 9 years, 7 months ago

Way to go Ben!!! You were dealt a raw deal, all of your Jayhawk fans thought so, but your've risen above it and I'm sure a stronger person. We are really looking forward to seeing you on the court this year!! Thanks for all your hard work.

Rock Chalk!! See you in a couple of weeks, I can hardly wait

Ethan Berger 9 years, 7 months ago

This is what bothers me. Maybe I'm just ignorant and don't understand. But why didn't the NCAA clear him after he posted a 3.0 for the fall semester? From what I understand the transcript were an issue, but the University still let him take classes and he did very well for a freshman during their first semester. It makes no logical sense to punish him after he had proven he was college fit. Ahh well, now we have a player who is dying to play in a real game who also discovered that he liked college. I connected with him on not really caring for high school grades but enjoying college because of what you learn.

Marcia Parsons 9 years, 7 months ago

As I remember, Hawk90, the NCAA declared him a partial qualifier, but it was the Big12 who voted that both he and Traylor had to wait a year. He wasn't being punished, just wasn't considered qalified to play the first year. Apparently they don't go back and review those decisions after they see how the student actually does in school.

Ethan Berger 9 years, 7 months ago

That would make sense. It's to bad they don't. It seems that if someone shows they are worth it, the NCAA should allow it. Considering it wasn't his fault.

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