Ben McLemore Shines in the Phog

By John Hayden
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

With only one home game left for the Kansas Jayhawks, will we see Ben McLemore shine in the Phog again? That question is on everyone’s mind right now as we are about to wrap up the regular Big 12 season. On Saturday afternoon, the West Virginia Mountaineers got to taste what McLemore can do at home.

He has struggled away from Allen Fieldhouse this season, but playing in the front of the Jayhawk fans is a different story. In the game against the Mountaineers, McLemore  broke the old freshman scoring record of 35 points set by Danny Manning against Oklahoma State on March 2, 1985—exactly 28 years to the day in Stillwater, Okla.

McLemore looked ready to take the next step in his career, the NBA. Four minutes into the game, Kansas coach Bill Self gave a ear full to McLemore and made him sit on the bench for a bad pass, although he wasn’t benched for long and took his benching as a wake-up call.

Is he ready to move on to the next level? So many NBA scouts have him being drafted as the top pick of the draft or the second pick. This Monday night could be his last home home as he has had three outings of 30 points or more this season. When asked about Monday night being his last home game, McLemore responded with this statement: “We just have to focus on what is in front of us right now. Our focus is just to go out there and play ball. We want to make our seniors happy and have them leave with a great year — their time here at the University of Kansas.”

I believe he’s ready, the family needs the income and some NBA team is ready to make him very rich. This is not a situation where staying around another year will make him more desirable and make him richer. McLemore could be the number one pick in the NBA draft or one of the top five. He has the soft touch and the shooting range, he can play many positions, he’s solid on the charity line and aggressive with his hands on defense.

“The reality of it is Ben and I … we’re not going to talk about this until the season is over … he could obviously be running out there the last time, too,” Self said. “Even though you don’t talk about it, you know obviously it’s something I’m sure he has thought about as well.”

I’m very sure that that NBA is on McLemore’s mind, but right now what is on his mind is winning nine straight Big 12 championships and marching towards the Final Four.

That focus and mission was shown in the Phog on Saturday afternoon as the Jayhawks blew out the Mountaineers. McLemore had a lot of room to work and plenty of choices. With alley-oops flowing and the Jayhawks, hustling it will be hard to stop them. McLemore isn’t the only one ready for the NBA. So is Jeff Withey, who had close to a triple double.

Monday night is Senior Night in Lawrence with emotions flowing all around as the Jayhawk fans will get to say goodbye to Withey, Kevin Young, Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson, who have carried this team on their shoulders. They will also be saying goodbye to McLemore, who has already left his name in the record books.

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