Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Opinion: Ben McLemore once again shows his huge upside

Kansas guard Ben McLemore, center, leans in as he and the Jayhawk starters huddle late in the game against Kansas State on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas guard Ben McLemore, center, leans in as he and the Jayhawk starters huddle late in the game against Kansas State on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 at Bramlage Coliseum.


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self talks after win over KSU

Kansas coach Bill Self talks after the Jayhawks' 59-55 victory over Kansas State on Jan. 22, 2013.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Travis Releford and Jeff Withey

Kansas seniors Travis Releford and Jeff Withey talk to reporters following the Jayhawks' 59-55 victory over Kansas State on Jan. 22, 2013.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KSU coach Bruce Weber and guard Rodney McGruder

Kansas State coach Bruce Weber and guard Rodney McGruder talk after the Wildcats' 59-55 loss to Kansas on Jan. 22, 2013.

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Box score


— Freshman forward Perry Ellis early and sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe late, fueled by ever growing confidence, helped Kansas University to grit out its 16th consecutive men’s basketball victory, 59-55, Tuesday night in Bramlage Coliseum against Kansas State.

The more good things that happen for them in games, the stronger the KU bench becomes.

But on a night he watched from the bench in foul trouble and too often from the perimeter when in the game, red-shirt freshman Ben McLemore again showed he’s the player on the roster with the most untapped potential.

From today until mid-March, McLemore’s the player who figures to improve the most, and when that happens, that’s when we’ll see how tough this veteran team that starts four seniors can become.

When McLemore involves himself in the action, especially close to the hoop, he does things nobody else can do. He had two flashes of brilliance, both in the second half of a game in which he was not a first-half factor (two points), thanks in part to foul trouble and to K-State senior Rodney McGruder’s strong defense.

The first two blink-and-you-missed-them contributions came in a 14-second span, both on the defensive end.

Kansas State’s crafty 6-foot-7, 270-pound sophomore center, Thomas Gipson, used multiple pump fakes to draw Jeff Withey’s third foul. Gipson’s three-point play not only sent Withey to the bench with 15:07 left, it cut K-State’s deficit to five points.

Gipson had the ball down low on his team’s next possession and dialed up his bread-and-butter move again. This time, when Gipson went to the pump fake, McLemore ripped the ball right out of his hands, not an easy play to execute without fouling, especially against such a strong athlete.

Just 14 seconds later, Gipson tried to score again, and McLemore blocked his shot.

McLemore supplied that sort of defensive help and also held his primary assignment, Will Spradling, scoreless.

For having such a quiet night (11 points, 4-of-7 field goals), McLemore timed his big plays well, most coming when the Wildcats drew within five points.

Again proving that good things tend to happen when McLemore moves closer to basket, he gave Kansas a seven-point lead with 9:51 left, scoring on an offensive rebound off a Withey miss.

McLemore’s three-pointer with 7:40 extended KU’s lead to eight points, and his jumper 44 seconds later gave Kansas a 10-point cushion.

Kansas State coach Bruce Weber was talking about Kansas in general, no player in particular, but his words just as easily could have applied to McLemore’s second-half flurries when he said, “They make plays. They don’t get rattled. On both ends of the court, they make plays and find ways to win.”

Once the conference season hits, scouting reports on how to defend freshmen are out, and those players need to figure out to counter the way they’re guarded. The book on McLemore says to play him tight and make him put the ball on the floor. That can frustrate him and in fact led to the second foul called on him Tuesday. But McLemore is so focused on improving, such a talented athlete and such a skilled basketball player, there is reason to believe he’ll make opponents pay for guarding him that way, and the book will have to change.

He wasn’t KU’s best player on this night. Travis Releford was, but McLemore with a couple of spurts showed why he was the best basketball prospect on the floor. He was good enough to make key plays in another tight Kansas victory. He’ll be a lot better than that when college basketball takes center stage in the sports world come mid-March.

Kansas was just good enough to stay unbeaten in the Big 12 and is alone in first place. It’s easy to see where it will be a lot better than that in couple of months.


Scott Smetana 9 years, 6 months ago

I think the player to improve the most by March is Ellis. No disrespect to BMac, he's already awesome.

jhox 9 years, 6 months ago

I would agree with you. Ellis is making giant leaps, especially in terms of his aggressiveness.

If McLemore ever realizes just how good he really is, look out world. This guy has elite NBA player written all over him.

stinkybulldog 9 years, 6 months ago

He's project as the #1 pick in the NBA draft. He probably would benefit if he returned next season, but money talks.

Joe Baker 9 years, 6 months ago

But if you're picked in R1, top 5, and perhaps #1 projected draft choice, you gotta go. You don't have to, but you would have to top your current season next season to get there again. If BMac goes lower than 10, he should consider staying another year. However, most have him in the NBA as the top pick, that's extremely difficult to turn away.

John Strayer 9 years, 6 months ago

Ellis need to figure out how to make a layup...ditto for Young...these missed "bunnies" will bite KU in the arse at some point down the road. Just dunk the ball and be finished with it.

Brian Dick 9 years, 6 months ago

No doubt! I'm tired of seeing Ellis and KY go up weak and get blocked! Withey too! It can't be that hard (this coming from a 5'9" guy. Haha)

Eric Williams 9 years, 6 months ago

I remember David Padgett (7'0") missing a bunny lay-up in one game and at half-time, one of the assistant coaches came out early with him and they made him dunk the ball close to 50 times to send him the message that he needs to dunk.

Kevin Young needs to dunk more when he has an open lane to the basket.

BCRavenJHawkfan 9 years, 6 months ago

Be patient with Ellis. Need I remind the audience what we all went through with the Morris Twins as freshman. As I remember many of us were selling our souls in return for a Morris dunk.

Mallory Rempp 9 years, 6 months ago

I completely agree. I think BMac has a lot of room to grow, but I do think Ellis has so much more to give than we're getting, especially with his shooting.

Kevin Enos 9 years, 6 months ago

I've seen a lot of blue-chip players come and go in recent years and not contribute much to the team but BMac is pretty impressive. It's great to see that Perry is gaining confidence, he's starting to really become a factor on the floor. I saw him on the BS Show the other night and didn't realize that he was such a smarty - class valedictorian of all things.

Marcia Parsons 9 years, 6 months ago

I believe he had straight As in high school, all four years.

Doug Cramer 9 years, 6 months ago

Would like to see Mac Attack stay another year or two to polish his skills.

Learn from Selby and Xavier. These guys are non-factors in the NBA.

Look at Collison, Heinrich, and Chalmers...these guys stayed at least through their junior seasons...and have influence.

Mac Attack is great...but it would be nice to have him stay on campus for a while.

actorman 9 years, 6 months ago

It would be nice, but it's a pipe dream. McLemore is FAR ahead of where Selby and Xavier were at this stage of their careers, and he's almost certain to be a top-5 pick in the draft.

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 6 months ago


*College - Very Good

*NBA - Not Ready

Kevin Huffman 9 years, 6 months ago

I don't see how he's "not ready".

Ready to be an ALMOST immediate All Star like Kyrie Irving almost was?

No. But he'd probably earn a starter's role or at least a 6th man type of role right off the bat.

John Randall 9 years, 6 months ago

McLemore is definitely more developed and NBA-ready than either X or Josh – not just when they left, but today as well.

I think a lot of that goes back to 'paying his dues' for a year wearing a forced redshirt. It is a great credit to both Ben and coach Bill that last year was not wasted.

The old rule about freshmen not playing varsity ball was a good thing for many more players than it ever hurt.

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 6 months ago

He's a great player and seems like a great kid. I know he's projected very high in the draft and will go pro - it just seems a shame to me because (forget about Josh and Xavier temporarily) all he's going to do in the NBA for a year or two is draw a paycheck. He has mad potential, but he's not ready to bang bodies with the big boys, plus he still has a lot to learn about the game. Look at T-Rob - one of the 2 or 3 best college players last year. Do you ever hear his name on ESPN ? He averages about 4 pts and 3 rebounds (in that neighborhood). I just wish he would stay here a while longer and enjoy the college experience and the rewards that go along with that.

jayhawkinATL 9 years, 6 months ago

Yep...he's projected by some mocks to go #1. Sorry, but you don't pass that up.

Redlandsjhawk 9 years, 6 months ago

Selby and Xavier should have stayed, true it would have helped them. I also want BMac to stay another year but it's purely selfish on my part. He's a potential no.1 pick. You don't pass that up.

Kevin Huffman 9 years, 6 months ago

Big differences though. Xavier was projected mid-first round, Selby was projected 2nd round and BMc's being projected no worse right now than top 3.


Don't forget that Selby & X were at KU one year ONLY. While this is BMc's first "official" basketball season, it is his 2nd year at KU and he's gotta' be a bit more mature than those two if for no other reason than experience & age.

nostradavid 9 years, 6 months ago

Ben's redshirt year made him a monster this year. Perry's improving fast. The tight game meant only a 7-man rotation tonight. Watch Out Okiehoma!

mojayhawk 9 years, 6 months ago

Agree, though I don't know why they keep calling him 'redshirt freshman'. He wasn't eligible last year. Does that still make him a 'redshirt'?
He has a huge advantage this year after practicing against T Rob and company last year's spring semester. And you're right about Perry. He's getting more hungry by the game. Surprised to see him miss some free throws, but I think that's just a sign of his intense mindset that is blossoming on the court. He's probably having a little trouble dialing it down at the stripe.

Jonathan Allison 9 years, 6 months ago

Because of the partial-qualifier ruling, his 5 year eligibility clock started at the start of last year, even thogh he was only eligible to join the team last year at semester, but ineligible to play in any games (somewhat similar to the transfer rule except for not being allowed to practice first semester). Because he was practicing with the team 2nd semester last year AND because his eligibility for competition was granted for the start of this season last year counted against his 5 year eligibility clock.

Really it was more of like redshirt semester from a player development standpoint, because he essentially lost one full semester worth of practicing with the team last year that a normal redshirt or TRANSFER student would get.

Think of it as almost a variation on the transfer rule. Withey's situation was really unique because he never played for Arizona and transferred at semester during his freshman year. But even though he never played there he still had to sit out a full year at KU before he started his eligibility clock. So Withey started playing in games with the team at Semester of his "redshirt freshman year".

Withey got a full year to practice with the team (transfer redshirt) but LOST a semester of competition because of his semester enrolled at Zona. Whereas McLemore lost a semester of practice during his redshirt year, but maintained his 4 years of competition eligibility.

Luckily for us the "partial-qualifier" ruling for McLemore didn't demand that his 5-year eligibility clock only start after he was cleared to practice, otherwise his "redshirt year" would have started at semester like Withey's and we'd have not gotten him until after finals in December.

April13 9 years, 6 months ago

Love when a guy does "something else" to contribute when his game is a little off. The steal and the block were huge, the unselfishness on the fast break was huge...just gotta love Ben!

Joe Baker 9 years, 6 months ago

If he plays within himself, and not force much, he'll be fine.

JayDocMD 9 years, 6 months ago

"Ben McLemore once again shows his huge upside"

"Upside" - is that what the kids are calling it these days?

jayhawkinATL 9 years, 6 months ago

Yep...and that's what NBA teams are basing their draft on.

Robert Brock 9 years, 6 months ago

For some it's upside - for others it's a pipedream.

jaybate 9 years, 6 months ago

Ben and Trav demonstrate the essence of TEAM. Both players can score and guard. But the tendency is for one to score more and the other to guard more. Specialization. But what good would Ben's scoring be without Trav's guarding? And what good would Trav's guarding be without Ben's scoring? With these two, in this scheme, it means nothing to talk about one without the other.

Same for the rest of the team, too.

No one could defend the perimeter as they do without Jeff inside this well without the level of perimeter defenders KU has.

After a season, all guys have different ceilings and futures. But during a season what one player does is inextricably dependent on what his teammates do.

And this is the beauty and advantage of TEAM in action.

And why commentary focusing on one player, no matter how insightful, packs within it oversimplification readers must be alert to, if they are to be good teammates to authors.

chriz 9 years, 6 months ago

Those of you who think Ben should come back are, IMHO, mistaken. He's not Josh Selby nor Xavier Henry. He's stronger and faster and, as you can see, pays on both sides of the court. Plus, by the end of this year, he will have already played two years.

He did exactly what he should've done. Make good grades, play at KU for a year, watch his stock sky-rocket, and go make some money. Of course I'd love to see him stay, but you go to college to get a job. And he's got a job. He's ready.

JayhawkJack98 9 years, 6 months ago

absolutly agree but man if he stayed we would be so much better next year. especially cause we are already losing 4 players to graduation

jaybate 9 years, 6 months ago


The memory of the ankle sprain will probably make him jump, but slayr's argument yesterday is my new rule.

You jump when you have built a skilled, trustworthy team of advisors around you, so you don't squander your money. You stay as long as it takes to assemble. The team has to be yours, so you are not theirs. Leaving a day before that is worse than injury risk.

Ron Franklin 9 years, 6 months ago

Does this preclude his mother from being and advisor because her advice was to go to MU! I'm kind of joking, here! Kind of.

HawksWin 9 years, 6 months ago

JB, Do you think McLemore is ready for NBA by the end of season? I'd hope so.

jaybate 9 years, 6 months ago

Physically: yes.

Skillwise: probably not to start in the NBA, but certainly to play some.

Mentally and emotionally: One would have to know him.

Business acumen: One would have to know him.

jgkojak 9 years, 6 months ago

When you go Top 5 in the draft, you go.

When you go No. 1 in the draft, there is no doubt you go.

BMac could only harm himself by returning - and possibly hurt our recruiting - recruits need to see Self as completely supportive of BMac moving to the next level when he's clearly ready - even if its BMac's decision to stay, Self should push him out the door.

HawkKlaw 9 years, 6 months ago

Self will push him out the door, no question. He's not a fan of having players like BMac lower their draft stock in order to play "one more year." If BMac is ready by the end of the year (and all signs show that he will be), he's gone. It sucks for us fans, but it is the best thing Ben can do for himself and his family.

And don't give me that stuff about Ben needing one more year to develop. He's clearly one of the best NCAA players right now, so he doesn't need one more year to develop into that. The best decision he could make is to go.

Joe Baker 9 years, 6 months ago

No argument here, you're both right on the money kojak and klaw

Steve Corder 9 years, 6 months ago

Ben is gone after this year. The money is too much to avoid. Would he benefit with another year under Self? Yes.

I hate the NBA and this one-and-done crap. It serves no one but the NBA and inflates young impressionable kids' sense of worth.

Tony Bandle 9 years, 6 months ago

Kansas will not lose at home = 9-0/Current road game victories = 3-0/On road at WV, TCU, OK = 3-0/ Road at ISU, OSU, Baylor at worst = 1-2/ Total 17-2.

I officially declare, for the 2012-2013 season, Kansas the ninth straight Big 12 Champion!!!!!!!!

BainDread 9 years, 6 months ago

Total 17-2? Who is the 19th game against?

Tony Bandle 9 years, 6 months ago

OOPS..we'll scrimmage the Ladyhawks!! :)

hammerhawk 9 years, 6 months ago

Great job, Jayhawks. You played well enough to win another one at our Western fieldhouse.

My advice to BMac is stay at KU another year. He will be a better player in the NBA because of staying. I give as an example one of the greatest of all time: Paul Pierce.

Go Hawks. Again, congrats for beating the state "rival" yet another time at their place!!

HawkKlaw 9 years, 6 months ago

I thought about BMac's scenario a lot last night. He's clearly one of the best freshman to ever don the crimson and blue. But I truly believe he's so great this year because he had a semester to sit out and learn the system. Selby and Xavier didn't have that "luxury" (I'm sure BMac wouldn't call it that) and both of them struggled much more than BMac their freshman years. BMac looks like a 5 star, Top 5 sophomore out there (as opposed to a freshman).

Also, I'd like to think that fate had something to do with it. I'm not a big fan of superstitions, but I remember when another scoring leader at KU had to come back and play another year at KU when he didn't necessarily want to: Brandon Rush. Rush went on to lead KU in scoring for a 3rd straight year and also to lead KU to the National Championship. I can see BMac's story panning out very similarly. Fate (and, well, the NCAA) has kept BMac in the NCAA for two semesters longer than he expected. He's leading the team in scoring and KU looks like a big favorite to win it all this year. Let's hope the end of his time at KU is as glorious as Rush's was.

Chris1955 9 years, 6 months ago

All of us have opinions on whether or not BMac should stay or go. I wonder what the former KU stars playing in the NBA would tell him?

jhox 9 years, 6 months ago

I've had conversations with ex KU / NBA guys, and they'll tell you that getting to play in Allen Field House is the greatest experience a player can have at any level of basketball. That being said, I suspect they would tell him if he can go in the top 3, he should probably go ahead and make the jump. My guess is that, at the end of the season, Coach Self tells him the same thing. Not that he wouldn't love to have him back for another year, no question he would. But when a kid can be set for life financially by signing his name to a single contract, any coach who had the kid's best interest in mind would not try to talk him out of doing that.

justanotherfan 9 years, 6 months ago

My rule of thumb has always been lottery pick. If you are a lottery pick, you jump, because lottery picks tend to get lots of chances in the NBA, even if they struggle. As for whether or not he's ready, I think Ben is the best KU player since Paul Pierce. Stardom isn't a guarantee, but guys with his talent are the types of players that NBA teams build their future around.

He shoots the ball so efficiently that I can't really see another year in college benefiting him. On ten shots a game he's shooting 51%, which is pretty impressive for a guard. He's shooting over 44% from 3 (on over 70 attempts). The only criticism I can make is that he only shoots about 4 FTs a game, but he shoots over 87% from there. At worst, he's a great perimeter shooter at the next level. The only question is whether he's a complimentary scorer as a spot up shooter, or an elite scorer if he adds more off the dribble game. Either way, it's a question that will start being answered this summer when he's taken in the top 5 of the draft.

Joe Baker 9 years, 6 months ago

Those teams build around franchise players: ie. Pierce, Durant, Bryant, Wade, and Nowitski. You can add BMac as a franchise player because he will be special in the NBA.

Tony Bandle 9 years, 6 months ago

The only thing that will prevent BenMac from going to the Show next year is a "Rush-like" injury that will force him to stay another year and recuperate..and none of us want that for him.

Remember, he is really a 2AD, with a semester of absorbing the Jayhawk culture and a semester of actual full tilt practice. He is far ahead of the other OADs we've had and, barring any unforeseen circumstances, he will declare and God Bless him for it!!

FearlessJayhawk 9 years, 6 months ago

What makes BMac so good and so valuable is that he knows how to give balance to the whole team and he knows when he needs to assert himself. I believe he is going to be an absolute super star at the next level. Those qualities are found only in truly great players. I can't wait till March!

Sam Constance 9 years, 6 months ago

"Dedicated players like Ben often do very well in the NBA"

See: Pierce, Paul.

Hank Cross 9 years, 6 months ago

When you're top lottery pick, you take your ticket directly to the NBA and cash it in. There's nowhere to go but down by staying another year and you risk an injury. Is the risk of a torn ACL worth playing UMKC again? Staying for 4 or 3 is for players like Withey who need the extra time to raise their marketability.

Tony Bandle 9 years, 6 months ago

Four seniors plus one lottery pick plus one on his cousin's nickel equals six schollies.

Conner, Wayne, Frank, Brannen, Jo Jo and Julius.....sounds good to me!!

KansasComet 9 years, 6 months ago

I am not concerned about Ben McLemore leaving Kansas to go the NBA. I am too busy watching and enjoying this young man play the game of basketball. I am so glad he decided to become a student athlete at the best University in the world! When the time comes, he will decide. I will be cheering for KU again next year, same as always! "These are the good ole days". Enjoy them folks!!

chalkitup1811 9 years, 6 months ago

calihawk33: i'm pretty sure we won a national championship with all our players being pot heads, ala chalmers,darrell arthur,darnell jackson, brandon rush sherron collins. all those guys were smoking pot and still got the national championship and drafted. some have been plagued by injury others didn't work out as well but i don't think weed has to do with anything. if you don't think derrick rose smoked weed while at memphis you're crazy the guy cheated to even get into school.

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 6 months ago

It's DUKE - they will stay at 1 - maybe plummet as far as 2.

REHawk 9 years, 6 months ago

The reigning AP COY of last season is gonna walk. Just as did Shabazz M. Bank on it.

HawkKlaw 9 years, 6 months ago

You're right, our post-presence (especially the Center position) is pretty weak on paper right now for next season. However, Ellis will be starter-worthy next season. He will be the "go-to" post player. Traylor will bring a lot of energy and will be a good backup at the 4. Lucas and Embiid will battle it out for that center spot.

However, if we get someone like Randle, I think it changes things immensely. Bill Self will probably opt for two PF's (as opposed to the traditional 1 PF and 1 C). In that case, I see Ellis and Randle starting in the post with Traylor, Lucas and Embiid all playing backup roles.

justanotherfan 9 years, 6 months ago

If KU lands Randle, I'm not sure if Ellis starts next season. Randle is clearly much more explosive athletically, which will help him transition to the college game. He would likely be one of the best freshmen in the country and probably one of the best 10-15 players in the country. He handles like a 3 and is built like a tank. If he comes to KU, he starts. Period.

At that point it would be between Ellis and Embiid for the other starting spot, unless KU went super big and started Ellis, Embiid and Randle, which is scary in its own diabolical way, since Ellis and Randle can both handle the basketball. That would allow them to go really small at the guards (Frankamp and Tharpe) or just be big and athletic with Selden and Adams. Now that I think about it, a lineup of Embiid, Ellis, Randle, Selden and Adams would be a matchup nightmare for any college team. Too big, too strong and too athletic. Very similar to last season's Kentucky squad in that you just couldn't get a break with that group on the defensive end.

But back to Ellis and Embiid. Embiid is a seven footer that is mobile and athletic. Those guys don't exactly grow on trees. He can block shots, although I worry about his rebounding, and he is a little thin. But then I recall that he's been playing hoops for a little more than a year and I think that his improvement curve is likely to really ramp up over the next few months. I'm just not sure Ellis starts over Embiid if Randle arrives because Ellis' biggest asset (his offense) won't be as important with Randle in the lineup, and he won't be as big a defensive boost as Embiid. I think he plays a ton next year, but if Randle is on the squad, Embiid makes more sense to play a defense first post alongside him. If not, Ellis and Embiid fill the same roles, with Ellis as more of an offensive force and Embiid protecting the rim.

Ann Oneill 9 years, 6 months ago

I'm sure Self was hoping that Zach Peters would develop and be part of the 'bigs' rotation this season.

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