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Archive for Thursday, December 27, 2012

Happy holidays: Ben McLemore cherishes visit with brother

KU freshman Ben McLemore stretches among hundreds of kids in attendance at the annual KU men's basketball clinic on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, at Allen Fieldhouse.

KU freshman Ben McLemore stretches among hundreds of kids in attendance at the annual KU men's basketball clinic on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, at Allen Fieldhouse.

December 27, 2012

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A long line of kindergarten to sixth-grade boys and girls stretched from the southeast end of the Allen Fieldhouse floor all the way to the southwest end Thursday afternoon.

The 450 youths in attendance at Kansas University’s 2012 Men’s Basketball Holiday Clinic made it clear that one of their favorite players was red-shirt freshman Ben McLemore, who, along with his teammates, signed a steady stream of autographs for an hour.

“A couple people were telling me the line was longer than coach (Bill) Self’s (line). I don’t believe that, but everybody kept telling me that,” McLemore said with a smile.

The 6-foot-5 St. Louis native returned to Lawrence on Wednesday afternoon after a relaxing 31⁄2-day Christmas vacation. He acknowledges the best present he received was not one of the wrapped gifts sitting under his mom’s Christmas tree.

The gift he’ll cherish forever was the opportunity to visit big brother Keith Scott, who is locked up in maximum-security Potosi Correctional Center in Mineral Springs, Mo. Scott, who is eight years older than Ben, celebrated his birthday on Christmas Day. He has been in jail for five years.

“It made my Christmas,” McLemore said of being granted an audience with his 28-year-old brother Sunday. “It was great seeing him. I didn’t get a chance to talk a lot with him. The thing I’m grateful for is getting to go out there and see him. I think he was even more happy to see me than I was to see him.

“He told me to keep my head up, just keep playing, keep doing what I’m doing, to have fun out there. That’s what I’ve been doing.”

McLemore and his teammates had a blast Thursday, taking part in drills with the youths at the clinic, which was held in the fieldhouse and the Jayhawks’ practice facility.

“It’s great taking time out of our day to get to play with the kids and have fun,” McLemore said.

In speaking with the campers, Self gushed about the ability of the high-flying McLemore, who leads KU in scoring (16.5 ppg) and is third in rebounding (5.7 rpg) entering Saturday’s 7 p.m. home game against American University.

“He has a chance to have his jersey hung up there,” Self said, pointing to the south rafters of the fieldhouse. “He’s that talented. He’s an even better kid.”

Self’s birthday: The campers sang “Happy Birthday” to Self at the urging of KU senior point guard Elijah Johnson. Self celebrated birthday No. 50 on Thursday.

“I turned 40 this year. It’s embarrassing to say that I turned 40,” Self said with a smile. “I used to be a young coach. Now I’m one of the oldest coaches around. Birthdays, I guess, when you get to be on the downward half or spiral or whatever it is ... I guess birthdays are great because it means you are still having them. I’ll take it and go with that.”

Self, who is in his 20th overall season as a coach, has 486 victories (against 159 losses). Recently, SI.com’s Andy Glockner wrote that KU’s Self has the best chance of any active coach to catch Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski as college basketball’s all-time winningest coach. Krzyzewski has 938 victories.

“Zero,” Self said, asked the odds of him catching Coach K. “Whoever wrote that doesn’t know me very well. I don’t think I’ll want to coach near that long. But if you coach at a place like Kansas, you are going to win a lot of games, that’s for sure.”

Asked if he likes being “in the conversation” for all-time winningest coach, Self said: “Nobody is mentioning me in the conversation. That’s one guy. Trust me, that’s not anyone’s topic of conversation, at least any meaningful conversation.”

Norm’s joke: KU assistant coach Norm Roberts came up with a lighthearted jab of Self on his birthday: “I think he looks pretty good for a 60-, 70-year-old guy. He has kept himself up. He’s got it put together pretty well.”

Wesley update: KU junior forward Justin Wesley, who broke the little finger on his left hand on Dec. 13, might be ready to play in the Temple game on Jan. 6.

“He has a splint on his finger. Hopefully he can start noncontact (drills) immediately and be out there with contact hopefully within a week,” Self said.

Self on KU’s first two practices since the end of holiday break: “Both were marginal at best, not a lot of energy,” he said. “The best thing we got out of it is some conditioning.

“Jeff is not back yet,” he added of senior Jeff Withey, who Thursday attended the memorial service for his grandmother in California. He should be able to practice today. “I would not say great practices by any stretch, but it’s good to have them back together. Attitudes are good, but we haven’t gotten better the last two days.”

More on McLemore’s draft stock: NBAdraft.net, which currently has McLemore being taken No. 3 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, wrote Wednesday that it’s possible he could vault to No. 1. He’d be the first shooting guard taken No. 1 overall since Austin Carr in 1971.

“If McLemore can continue his rate of improvement and learns how to further impose his will on the game, by the time draft day rolls around, anything is possible. In a draft with no clear cut No. 1 pick, a shooting guard such as McLemore has a legitimate chance to be the top overall pick, something we have not seen in 40 years,” Greg Sandler of nbadraft.net wrote.

Draftexpress.com currently has McLemore being picked No. 10 overall and Withey No. 25. NBAdraft.net has Withey going No. 30 overall.

Comments

formyle 1 year, 3 months ago

cooonrod,

I respect your opinion and on a lot of levels I agree with you. Who out there is no 1? Absolutely no one yet--that is the only valid answer. I can't tell you, and I believe anyone who says they can say who is best is speaking prematurely. No one should be anointed the best player before New Year's Day, and that is my whole point. Who can guard McLemore? We don't know yet. Certainly not anyone from San Jose St. or Belmont or Richmond or Chattanooga or even Ohio State. Does that mean he can't be guarded? We don't know yet. We really don't know. I hope he can't be guarded by anyone, because that will suggest that KU might be in for a memorable season.

McLemore is in a starting lineup with four seniors, a rare thing now in college hoops. He doesn't have to be a leader, he doesn't have to defend the other team's top player, he doesn't have to beat full-court presses with his passing and ball-handling. He doesn't have to even be careful on defense because Jeff Withey is behind him. All he has to do so far is score points and not hurt the team in other areas. He has proven he can do that, to his credit. Because Ben McLemore's teammates are so experienced, however, his other skills have not truly been tested. Therefore, we still can't truly say he is NBA ready or the best player in the country, although I am not saying he isn't. Again, all I am saying is that we haven't seen enough to know how good he is yet. That's all I'm saying. Do I think he will be a great player? Absolutely.

My comment about Selby was not an indictment of Ben McLemore--nor was I comparing their games. Selby was touted as a great player when KU signed him, and he looked pretty good if you judged him by his first game, when he hit the game-winning shot against USC. Yet, it was all downhill from there. However, despite a short and frankly mediocre single season at KU, he managed to get drafted. He was not a high pick, but he was drafted. He was drafted because it was still believed he had potential, even though he did very little at Kansas to demonstrate that. He could run fast and jump high. That was enough for the NBA.

My comments here are not about KU players per se, although I do believe several jumped to the NBA too soon. McLemore might indeed be the best player in the country for all I know, He might not be, though. It might be Muhammad from UCLA (who had a nice game tonight against Missouri), or perhaps someone else. If Ben McLemore is the first pick in the NBA draft, I will be happy for him, even if I'm sorry to see him go, because it will help KU in their recruitment of other players. I'm only saying that no one can really know how good McLemore or Muhammad or anyone else is just yet--it is too soon. And, if you make early selections for the NBA draft based on potential and not what happens on the court (against top flight competition), you might just get another Josh Selby. That is my whole point.

Thanks.

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Brian Conrad 1 year, 3 months ago

formyle. Not a criticism on you but.... you are so far off . you tell me who out there is no 1?? to compare Selby WOW. If you look through the eyes of a scout , McLemore looks like a NBA player right now. it is obvious when he has the ball. announcers may get confused between TT and EJ .. but never Mac. I have watched tons of different players around the country. name one player better. tell me one who can guard him? KU defense frustrated Ohio States best player at home... no one will frustrate Mac. he has proven, when he needs to score no one will stop him.

this team is so well rounded. pick your poison. double down on Withey , outside guys will eat your lunch. Releford will get to the rim. Young will score from anywhere. 3 point shooters are getting better every game. best shot blocker in NCAA. tough defense. And top it off with McLemore slamming over anyone on the opposing team. the slam in the face after the tough D. well it just completely deflated OSU.

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formyle 1 year, 3 months ago

Please allow me to clarify and elaborate on my earlier statements: I understand the scouts are looking at McLemore's attributes when ranking him as a player. My point is that the ability to shoot, dribble, defend and pass will all look better against inferior opponents; therefore, they have little legitimate criteria to rate his game so far. Unfortunately, the current NBA seems to think that if you can jump high you can be an NBA player, which they found out was not the case with ex-KU player Josh Selby.

Theebest is absolutely correct in suggesting that too many KU players have left before they were ready. Julian Wright is out of the league and largely forgotten, and he had great potential. Xavier Henry still has trouble getting into a game, Josh Selby has done time in the D-League two years in a row now, and Darrell Arthur hardly makes an appearance, either. Even Marcus Morris wasn't quite ready after his junior year, although he and Markieff are both part-time starters in their second NBA season. Conversely, Mario Chalmers is playing well for the Heat and Brandon Rush was doing a good job off the bench for Golden State before he was injured this season.

Once again I ask not to be misunderstood. This is NOT a criticism of McLemore. I am not saying that KU and McLemore aren't playing great basketball; I am ONLY saying that the NBA places too much emphasis on "potential" and too little on actual accomplishments. If McLemore plays rotten basketball the next ten games, does he become a number five or ten pick in the draft, or is the early assessment of his potential still all that matters? Is what he accomplishes on the court irrelevant since he has been anointed a lottery pick and possible number one selection? If what he does in games the rest of this season doesn't matter, well--that's why the NBA isn't what it used to be.....

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Gregory Newman 1 year, 3 months ago

I wish the NBA scouts would stay out of Kansas. They keep snatching our guys way too soon not allowing to further develop. Yes we have the numbers in the league but none are stars except Paul Pierce and he's on his last leg.

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formyle 1 year, 3 months ago

Ben McLemore is extremely talented, but he has really played against only two good teams so far--Michigan State and Ohio State. To project him as a number 3, number 1 or even a number 10 NBA draft pick based on his play in 10-12 games is a stretch. I know someone has to be best, but if he was a junior posting the same numbers, would he be rated as high?

Do not interpret my comments as suggesting McLemore won't be a great player. I have enjoyed watching him play so far and believe he can be very good. I simply think rating him as a potential first pick in the NBA draft is unrealistic.

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