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Blog from New York: KU fans wait hours in line to get Ben McLemore's autograph at Times Square
Final update: 6 p.m.
The line at Champs Sports in Times Square has not gotten any shorter as Ben McLemore already has signed dozens of autographs and will be here until 6:30.
To my surprise, most of the memorabilia he's signed are KU photos, but I also saw him sign a Carmelo Anthony N.Y. Knicks T-shirt jersey. Odd.
The five dudes at the front of the line got there more than two hours early and three of them were KU fans living in NYC. All were young, high-school age probably, and one said he planned to play for KU in 2 years. He was maybe 5-9, though, so I'm not thinking his odds are good.
As for why they like KU, the answer was simple: the tradition. I also heard the name Andrew Wiggins come out. Go figure.
McLemore really seems to be enjoying this part as he's taking time to find out names before signing and shaking hands and saying thanks to every autograph-seeker.
This is it for McLemore for the day and also it for the blog. I'm headed back inside to write up a story for tomorrow's paper. But we'll have another full day of coverage tomorrow starting early with Nick Gerik's NBA draft rumors round-up and hopefully I'll jump in midday with a video from today. Tomorrow night, of course, I'll be live at The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where McLemore will learn the identity of his new squad.
I'll have videos, pics, vibe and reaction throughout the draft and Tom Keegan and Jesse Newell will also be chiming in on the draft blog from the home front.
Thanks for checking out today's coverage and we'll see you tomorrow!
Shout-out to Alex Poupprit, a huge KU fan and avid KUSports.com reader, who just said hey to me as he headed to get McLemore's signature.
It's almost Draft Day, folks!!!
4:36 p.m. update
Although Wednesday was about seeing the city, getting out in the community and talking to the media, the whole reason McLemore is here has not been far from his mind.
In addition to thinking he is a worthy No. 1 pick, McLemore is not worried about where he'll be picked, only what he'll do when that happens.
Incidentally, I talked to a couple of people linked with Cleveland and neither believe McLemore is in play there. They said it's Noel or Len. But who knows.
McLemore's brother, Kevin, said he thinks the Magic are the best fit, and McLemore himself said he enjoyed the chance to meet Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn, a name familiar to KU fans.
My gut tells me McLemore will go top five, but I'm not sure where he lands. Phoenix at five would be a good spot and I don't think Washington is an option at all at No. 3.
This much we do know. In a little more than 24 hours, both McLemore and the rest of the world will know and then it'll be time for him to show whichever team picked him that they made a good selection.
"I don't feel like waiting's going to be hard. I'm ready," McLemore said. "I'm gonna go straight to sleep tonight and I'm not nervous at all. I'm just excited and very blessed."
4:12 p.m. update
Although Ben McLemore was just 8 years old when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York in 2001, his visit to the 9/11 Memorial grounds on Wesnesdsy as part of the NBA Cares initiative still meant a lot to him.
"I was just a young buck," McLemore said as he made his way from the south pool to the north with a dozen other future NBA players. "I don't remember much about it, but I know the history and being here is cool."
The players joined several children of victims and toured the facility with cameras and unsuspecting visitors wondering who all those tall guys were.
The guide told stories of the heroics involved with they fateful day, and the sister of one of those who lost his life that day spoke with genuine joy and appreciation for the players taking time to pay tribute to the thousands who lost their lives in the attack.
McLemore snapped pictures of the memorial with his phone and then posed with more than a dozen fans before being photographed in a group shot near the survivor tree.
Each year, future lottery picks spend a portion of the day before the draft doing some sort of community outreach program, and this year the event was as meaningful for the players as it was the young people.
One other note of interest ... McLemore and Michigan's Trey Burke seemed to be fast friends. They toured the Memorial grounds together and sat by each other on the bus rides to and from.
Stay tuned for more regarding McLemore's status for tomorrow night ...
2:04 p.m. update
While waiting for McLemore I talked to Michigan guard Trey Burke about the shot he hit against Kansas and, though humble, he was more than happy to relive it.
Burke, who said he's been reminded about the shot just about every day since he hit it, said he's talked to McLemore about the shot both here in New York and at a workout in Chicago. As for the shot itself, Burke said he couldn't believe he hit it at the time because he felt he just threw it up. But, having watched it dozens of times since, he can see it. Good elevation, good follow through, good release. Bad news for Kansas.
As for McLemore, he seemed incredibly relaxed and confident during the 30-minute interview session.
He said being at KU helped him mature a great deal and added that the draft process has taught him to be more aggressive. You have to sell yourself, you have to compete for attention and interest and he's done his best to do that, even going as far as to say he believes he should be the No. 1 pick.
There's been a lot of talk about McLemore being out of shape, but he looked anything but that and said he's not worried about those comments as much as his mother is.
"I know who I am," he said. "I know how hard I've worked and what I've done to put myself in position to be here. I've got that dog in me and I'm ready to walk across the stage."
Headed to the World Trade Center site for an event with the players.
Stay tuned for more ...
11:34 a.m. update
Ben McLemore is in New York City and is just waiting his turn to meet with the media. He'll head in around noon and will be in three with a couple of other potential No. 1 picks, Maryland's Alex Len and Indiana's Victor Oladipo.
Nerlens Noel is in the first group along with a guy most KU fans don't want to hear about: Michigan's Trey Burke.
About an hour of interviews here at the Westin in Times Square and then it'll be time to pound the pavement for some more fun.
Stay tuned for much more from the Big Apple, including audio, video and updates from McLemore's afternoon.
Original Post: 8:16 a.m.
Good morning, KU fans, and welcome to another NBA Draft Eve.
For the fourth straight year I'm out in New York City to cover the draft and will be following former Kansas superstar Ben McLemore off and on throughout the day, trying to get a read on how he's feeling and what he's thinking the day before his dream of becoming a professional ballplayer comes true.
As always, we've got some media availability through the NBA around noon to kick things off and I'll be sending back audio and video clips, photos and updates as that unfolds.
Later this afternoon, there are a couple of other appearances that McLemore will make and I'll do my best to be right in the thick of them to bring you the best possible look at McLemore's big day.
I'll try to update this blog as often as possible but will be on the move quite a bit and will likely rely heavily on my Twitter account for some of the updates, so if you're not following me already be sure to do so before the fun gets started.
For now, here's a quick look at a pre-draft video featuring McLemore followed by some interesting draft numbers and trends regarding KU and the Big 12 from the past 20 years.
Charge up your computers and iPhones and stay tuned in to KUSports.com throughout the day.
• McLemore pre-draft video from NBA.com
• Facts, figures and fun from the past 20 years
With four players eligible for selection in Thursday's NBA Draft and two of them locks to be chosen, the Kansas University men's basketball program figures to keep its spot near the top of the list of college hoops programs that produce the most pros.
KU has sent 27 players to the NBA during the past 20 seasons. That's tied with North Carolina for third most among all NCAA Div. I programs and trails Kentucky (30) and Duke (29) by just a couple of picks.
While KU has produced a high number of NBA players at a steady rate during the past 20 years — dating back to the 1993 draft when Rex Walters was picked 16th and Adonis Jordan was taken 42nd — things have really began to heat up in the past few seasons.
After seeing just two players make the leap during his first four seasons in town, KU coach Bill Self has heard the names of 12 of his guys called during the past five seasons, with five guys picked during 2008 (13. Brandon Rush, 27. Darrell Arthur, 34. Mario Chalmers, 52. Darnell Jackson and 56. Sasha Kaun), three in 2011 (13. Markieff Morris, 14. Marcus Morris, 49. Josh Selby) and two each in 2010 (11. Cole Aldrich, 12. Xavier Henry) and 2012 (5. Thomas Robinson, 41. Tyshawn Taylor).
KU's current streak of three consecutive drafts in which Jayhawks were chosen marks the school's longest stretch in the past two decades. That streak includes three straight drafts in which Self players landed in the lottery (Top 14), also a school best in the Roy Williams and Bill Self eras.
Barring some unforeseen pre-draft craziness, Self's lottery streak should grow to four straight years when McLemore is taken in Thursday's draft in Brooklyn, N.Y. Although his stock has been unstable during the past couple of months, most analysts and draft experts expect McLemore to go no lower than seventh on Thursday night. Some have him still in the hunt for the No. 1 pick, others have him pencilled in at No. 2 and most have him being taken in the Top 5.
Joining McLemore as a potential, perhaps even likely first-round selection, is former KU center Jeff Withey, whom experts and analysts have anywhere from No. 20 in Round 1 to the top of the second round.
Forward Travis Releford and guard Elijah Johnson are the other two Jayhawks who could hear their names called on Thursday.
Regardless of whether those guys are picked or not, the selection of McLemore and Withey should keep KU near the top of college basketball world and may even expand the sizable gap KU has on the rest of the Big 12 Conference.
During that same time span, only two other Big 12 schools (Texas and Iowa State) have even reached double digits in NBA draft picks. The Longhorns have sent 19 players to the pro ranks — most recently Tristan Thompson (4), Jordan Hamilton (26) and Corey Joseph (29) in the 2011 draft — and the Cyclones have watched 10 players get drafted during the past 20 drafts, with Royce White at No. 16 in 2011 being the most recent.
Oklahoma (9), Oklahoma State (7), Baylor (6), Texas Tech (5), West Virginia (4), Kansas State (2) and TCU (2) round out the rest of the Big 12's NBA Draft production during the past two decades. As you can see, the bottom seven schools on the list have combined to outperform KU by only a slim margin of 35-27.
So, what does this all mean? Not much, really. Although the Jayhawks have placed more players on NBA benches during the past 20 years, those players have not always panned out. In fact, only eight Jayhawks during the past two decades have logged more than 20 minutes per game throughout their NBA careers and more than half of KU's total draftees during that time are no longer in the league.
Still, there's something to be said for continually putting guys in a position to be drafted and both Williams and Self certainly did a solid job of that.
Where McLemore and Withey or even Releford and Johnson fit into the overall picture will not be known for several years. But come midnight on Thursday, it will be known which of those guys added to KU's already impressive and ever-expanding list of NBA draft picks.
For those who like to keep score on these kinds of things, both DraftExpress.com and NBADraft.net project that KU, UK and Duke will have two players drafted on Thursday night and UNC will have one. So even though the Jayhawks may not make up any ground on the leaders, they could gain some separation on Carolina.