Ben McLemore plays his 17th and final game in Allen Fieldhouse tonight, a freshman on Senior Night and the best player in the building, with the possible exception of his potential replacement, visiting recruit Andrew Wiggins.
Too in demand to play more than one season of college basketball, McLemore certainly has made the most of it and plays as if he relishes every Allen Fieldhouse moment.
You get out of something what you put into it, and to get an idea of how deeply invested McLemore has been in his one season as a college basketball player, consider what he will take from it.
For starters, he has made friends for life in his teammates. He has become more comfortable speaking in public, his game has improved to the extent he ranks No. 1 on many NBA Draft projections, and he has a legitimate shot to help his team win a national championship.
Plus, he’ll have no shortage of fieldhouse memories keeping him company forever. McLemore scored 33 points in the Iowa State game he sent into overtime by banking in a three-pointer. He torched Kansas State for 30 points in a blowout of Big 12 co-leaders, and he broke Danny Manning’s freshman school record with 36 points Saturday against West Virginia.
That’s 99 points in three games in which he attempted just a combined 40 field goals, making 31. He hit 17 of 23 threes and 20 of 22 free throws.
In 16 games in Allen Fieldhouse, McLemore has averaged 19.3 points, shot 53 percent overall and 49 percent from three-point range.
In nine true road games, McLemore has averaged 12.9 points and shot 44 percent overall and 28 percent from three, despite a strong game in the first one, at Ohio State.
But his road blues don’t qualify as cause for panic. Kansas has played four games on courts that were neither team’s regular home, three at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, one in Atlanta, against Michigan State. In those games, McLemore has averaged 14.3 points, shot 52 percent both overall and from three-point range. KU’s first two NCAA Tournament games likely will be played in the Sprint Center.
Besides, far more than the site of Saturday’s game influenced McLemore’s scoring outburst.
“He did a good job reading screens today, but we also did a good job screening for him,” KU coach Bill Self said.
“... We ran some stuff to make sure to give Ben the first opportunity to get some looks. We need to probably do more of that. We’ve done it, but he’s starting to understand more how to free himself.”
It’s quite possible the No. 1 overall picks in the next two NBA drafts will be in attendance tonight. If Wiggins likes what he sees and decides to come to Kansas, that would give the Jayhawks, who haven’t had the No. 1 overall selection since Manning in 1988, two in a row. Wiggins, a 6-foot-7, 200-pound wing, tops all the 2014 NBA Draft projections.