Good teams always have the players who are willing to rise up in big moments and not let the importance of the moment become a burden.
So when Ben McLemore stepped right up and handled his first true college road game as if he had done it before, the college basketball world was given one more reason why Kansas could be the team to beat this season.
McLemore, a redshirt freshman, torched Ohio State for 22 points as the Jayhawks knocked off the Buckeyes 74-66 in a rematch of a 2012 national semifinal.
If he was intimidated at all by the atmosphere, he didn’t show it.
“This was great. It was my first time playing in an away game,” McLemore said in a post-game press conference. “You go up and down the court a little bit, and you get into the game. I kept my intensity, I just played my game.”
My guess is probably didn’t hurt McLemore’s cause that he was playing in a lineup that features battle-tested veterans. Their experience and leadership gave McLemore an opportunity to feel at ease and he took advantage of it.
Through 11 games, McLemore is the leading scorer on the team, averaging 16.5 points per outing and grabbing 5.7 rebounds per game.
Considering he was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, maybe it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the young guard has learned to excel quickly at this level.
Of course, that doesn’t mean he has reached his full potential yet.
“There’s a lot of stuff I’m curious about Ben,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said in a post-game press conference. “He’s still trying to figure out how to play. You can tell in late-game situations, he’s played less basketball than anybody else that’s as old as him and as good as him around. It’s all new to him. When itall comes naturally to him, he’s going to be terrific.”
Opponents probably fear the day McLemore does become terrific. And if he gets there this season, Kansas could be the team celebrating a national title at the end of the year.
Brian Lester is a featured Big Ten columnist and college basketball writer for Rant Sports. He is a member of the United States Basketball Writers Association as well.
Follow him on Twitter @BLester1993 or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.