Kansas' Ben McLemore Declares for the NBA Draft

April 9, 2013

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore declared for the NBA Draft at a press conference in Allen Fieldhouse Tuesday afternoon.

“I want to thank my teammates a lot for supporting me and always pushing me each and every day at practice,” McLemore said. “I love those guys. It was great playing with those guys. I want to thank my family and the coaching staff, too, but most of all I want to thank the KU fans. Without the KU fans, Kansas wouldn’t be like this. The KU fans are great and I’d like to thank them a lot for cheering me on and cheering this whole program on. I love that about Kansas. That’s the reason I came here.”

A Consensus All-America Second Team selection and All-Big 12 First Team honoree, McLemore led Kansas in scoring in 2012-13 with 15.9 points per game, which ranked third in the Big 12. The 6-foot-5 St. Louis, Mo., native led the Big 12 with an 87.0 free throw percentage and also ranked among the league leaders in field goal percentage (eighth at 49.5), three-point field goal percentage (second at 42.0), three-point field goals made (sixth at 2.0) and rebounds (20th at 5.2).

McLemore’s 15.9 points per game this season broke the KU freshman record of 14.6 ppg posted by Jayhawk legend Danny Manning in 1985. McLemore’s 589 points and his 87.0 free throw percentage also broke KU freshman marks.

During the 2012-13 season, McLemore was a three-time Big 12 Rookie of the Week and one-time league player of the week. He became only the second Jayhawk in the 17-year history of the Big 12 to have earned Big 12 Player and Rookie of the Week in the same season. Mario Chalmers also accomplished the feat during the 2005-06 season.

McLemore had 11 games of 20 points or more in 2012-13, including three 30-point contests. His 36 points against West Virginia (3/2) broke the KU freshman single-game scoring record and his three 30-point efforts also set a KU freshman single-season mark.

Head coach Bill Self
Opening statement:
“I appreciate everyone coming out. Today is a happy day for all of us that support Kansas basketball and that have had the privilege of getting to know Ben and his family. He wanted to do this the right way and certainly having the people here that have represented him very well through the media during his time here.”

Redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore
Opening statement:
“I’d like to thank everyone for being here today, this is a special moment for me. First off, I want to thank God for giving me the opportunity to be here. I want to thank the coaching staff, and definitely Coach Self, for giving me the opportunity to be here and play for the University of Kansas. Sitting out last year, I was thinking ‘Why wasn’t I able to play?’ But things happen for a reason and sitting out last year I think was the best thing for me. So coming in last year, watching and learning a lot and being able to play this year was great.

“I want to thank my teammates a lot for supporting me and always pushing me each and every day at practice. I love those guys. It was great playing with those guys. I want to thank my family and the coaching staff, too, but most of all I want to thank the KU fans. Without the KU fans, Kansas wouldn’t be like this. The KU fans are great and I’d like to thank them a lot for cheering me on and cheering this whole program on. I love that about Kansas. That’s the reason I came here.

“Just being able to play here and do the things I did as a freshman, which was great, I accomplished so much. Like I said, I just want to thank everyone on the staff – especially Coach Self – and my teammates. My mom, my family and I talked and we talked to the coaches and I made a decision that I’m going to enter the NBA Draft. I think that is the best opportunity to help me and my family out. Growing up, that’s what I wanted to do and now I have the opportunity to do that and provide for my family.”

On what he learned at Kansas that he will take to the next level:
“I learned lot. From sitting out last year and now being able to play, I learned a lot. I’m trying to be more aggressive and Coach was on me about that each and every day. I learned a lot playing for this program, and I matured a lot and became who I am. I learned a lot playing for the University of Kansas. This is a great place and I’m going to remember this place for the rest of my life and I want to thank everyone that supported me.”

Head coach Bill Self
On this moment being bittersweet:

“How bittersweet is this? I thought he was coming in here to announce that he was staying, so I’m shocked. This is not bittersweet at all, this is sweet sweet. When you recruit guys, you recruit them to hopefully come into your program and leave here as prepared to have the best life they possibly can when they leave. Of course, a lot of things go into that – the maturation process, the educational aspect, but also a big part of it is the athletic aspect with the guys we recruit. Ben has the chance to live out his dream. To be quite candid, if he had been eligible last year, I think the most we ever would’ve gotten out of him was two years. He had such a big year this year. People have said so many positive things about him. The NBA appears to like him quite a bit – really, there was no decision to be made. If anything, we would’ve encouraged him to explore and probably to go. Not that we would want him out of here, obviously, but him having an opportunity to provide for himself and the people that have done such and incredible job raising him, especially his mother, that anybody with a clear conscious would have to say ‘Hey, go for it when the time is right’ and the time is definitely right.”

Redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore
On his progression during his two years at Kansas:

“I can remember the first day meeting Coach and all the coaching staff; I’m really close with Coach T (assistant coach Kurtis Townsend). We had a good bond with each other and then being with my teammates was one of the best times of my life. My teammates are just great people on and off the court. Sitting out last year, Jamari (Traylor) and I have a real close relationship with each other. That relationship is going to build as I move on to my future. Being here, I’ve changed a lot. Like Coach said, I’ve matured a lot. I came here as a humble person and soft-spoken kid, but just being able to be here and have this special day is a blessing.”

On if being more aggressive is one of his biggest challenges:
“Definitely. Coach was also stressing to me to be more aggressive. Growing up, I wasn’t that kid that was a fighter or anything like that. But coming to college, I had to mature and understand the game. I knew had to be aggressive if I was going to play at the next level. I definitely think the coaching staff and my teammates helped me a lot with that.”

Head coach Bill Self
On if he thinks McLemore will be the No. 1 pick in the draft:

“I don’t know who all is coming out, but absolutely he could be the No. 1; but I also think, and this isn’t being negative, but he could be No. 5. A lot depends on what Ben does between now and when the draft occurs. A lot depends on where the lottery balls fall and what the needs are of those respective teams. I don’t think you put the pressure on somebody and say he’s definitely this (pick). I think Ben would agree that there’s no clear cut, he’s No. 1, but I think everybody’s got him 1, 2 or 3. I can’t believe that he would fall out of that range, because I know he’ll work. I thought the question over here was a good one in how has he changed since he got here. When he got here, he couldn’t even practice with the team his first semester at all so he and Mari (Jamari Traylor) didn’t even get to go through what our guys go through. Then he was a scout team guy and I think he led the country in scoring on every defensive drill we did for everybody else because he shot it every time. He was more aggressive last year as a redshirt than he ever was this year while he was playing and he would agree with that. You saw so much talent, but last year I think we said that in order for us to be any good that Thomas (Robinson) was going to have to play like an All-American. That kind of raised some eyebrows and then he finished second for National Player of the Year. In order for us to be good with the guys we lost last year, even with all we got back this year with veteran leadership, we still needed a freshman to step up and be great for us. Ben was that. I think he has improved in all phases, but I don’t think he’s scratched the surface of what he can be, which I think is an all-star eventually.”

Head coach Bill Self
On if he encourages or discourages his players to enter the NBA Draft or if each case unique:
“Well, I don’t know. I kind of encouraged you [said to McLemore], didn’t I?”

Redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore
“Yeah definitely; I can say all my teammates and coaches said ‘If it’s your time, it’s your time.’ I mean, it was my time.”

Head coach Bill Self
“But Ben kept telling us in February ‘Don’t worry about getting anybody else, I’m coming back’ and we were like ‘Yeah, right.’ We did ask ‘Do you want to make that a public announcement?’, but he didn’t ever agree to that so I knew that I was in trouble. But things change. The thing that was really encouraging to me about Ben and how he handled everything was he didn’t handle it during the season. He knew he still had a job to do here, and if you do your job here then you have an opportunity to make decisions after. He was very mature in how he handled it. If he would have told me he wanted to come back I would have said, ‘Well Ben, we need to look at this again.’ The most important thing is not for him to go get a check; the most important thing is for him to be prepared to have a career. There are no guarantees if he were to come back it would be better, and there are no guarantees if he were to go that it would be better. It is up to him to make the most of the decision he has made. My personal opinion (is that) if he were my son, and you guys have seen Tyler play, if he was my son I would certainly, strongly recommend that he go and make this jump at this time.”

Redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore
On if he thought this season that this would be your only season at KU:
“Not at all. Talking to my mom, she wanted me to finish my whole four years and get a degree. I want to thank Scooter, Vince, and Bobby (Dr. Scott Ward, Associate Athletics Director-Academic and Career Counseling; Vince McKamie, Associate Director-Tutoring Program and Bobby Nichols, Learning Specialist) for the opportunity they have given me sitting out last year and getting my grades and my academics right, and being able to practice second semester, so I would like to thank them a lot too. I definitely didn’t think this opportunity would be here for me, but like I said, I work hard each and every day and go out there and give it my all.”

On how his decision was impacted by his enjoyment of the college experience versus his struggles growing up, both factors which have been well-documented:
“It was kind of tough; but at the same time, growing up not having a lot, I don’t need to talk about what I don’t have. I just talk about what I want to try to get, and try to help my family. Being little, growing up, you just think about you want to provide for your family. Coming here and sitting out last year and being able to play this year, I got the opportunity to do that and I took it.”

On if seeing former Kansas standouts spend time in the D-League has braced him for the reality that there is no guarantee of making an NBA roster:

“Once I get there, I am going to start working. Like Coach said, I like to work and I like to pay attention, listen to what the coach tells me I need to do and I go out there and give it my all. I give it 100 percent, do what I need to do and play my game, just go out and have fun.”

On if he’s hired an agent or has set plans to prepare for the NBA Draft:
“Right now I have not. At the time, I need to sit down and talk to some people and figure out who I want to sign and work with.”

On who he received advice from in order to make his decision:
“Just my family around me. My family telling me ‘If this is what you want to do, and this is the opportunity you want to help your family, then do it.’ Talking to the coaches, this was the best (decision) for me. It was a great opportunity for me. That’s what I did. Today is a great day, a special day for me and my family, for all the KU fans, the coaches and my teammates.”

Redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore
On what he’s going to miss about Kansas when he’s gone:

“I’m going to miss my coach.”

Head coach Bill Self
“Yeah. Yeah, right.”

Redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore
I’m going to miss my teammates, coaching staff, academic people and I am definitely going to miss the fans. The fans were supportive a lot, throughout this whole season. Without the fans, you know, what will happen?”

Head coach Bill Self
On if what McLemore does in the NBA will be important to the Kansas basketball program:
Oh, I think it is important. He helps us to recruit, moving down the road, the more successful he is, without question. Just like the impact that Paul (Pierce), Kirk (Hinrich), Nick (Collison), Mario (Chalmers), Drew (Gooden) and those guys had, and hopefully the most recent guys that have left. They haven’t had an opportunity yet to do it.

“Ben is the most talented kid I have ever worked with. He may be the nicest kid I have ever worked with. I don’t say that strictly as a positive. I think it is one of those situations, and he knows this; we have talked about it a lot, he is hungry, he is so many things. One thing he can’t be is everything to everybody. He needs to be true to himself and his family and that is it. If he is able to do that, I think the sky is the limit on what he can potentially do. You guys know this, you guys covered him. In a way, to have so much thrown at him, so fast, coming from a situation he came from – and people have made a big deal about his situation – which is true, but you talk about what you don’t have, but you also need to talk about what you do have. He had great leadership in the home. He had a strong family with a ton of love there. There are so many great qualities that he has developed in himself that will be a part of him moving forward, that will guarantee success. I don’t think there was one time our staff sat around this year and said ‘We hope Ben comes back.’ That didn’t happen once. Whenever he started blowing up – a bit after the Ohio State game, if I remember right – I’m thinking ‘Oh jeez, I’m glad we have him because we’re winning, but we aren’t going to have him long.’ That is the way it should be. So it will help us moving forward. We are not a program that has produced a lot of one-and-dones, but we also are not a program that has recruited a lot of guys that were projected to be of one-and-dones. Ben wasn’t that. Ben wasn’t a McDonald’s All-American. It goes to show you that once you take that next step, to the next level, it doesn’t matter. When he takes this next step to the next level, it doesn’t matter. He has to reprove himself all over again. There won’t be anybody he is competing against that will be hungrier than he is.”

Redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore
On memories that will stand out to him from his time at Kansas other than his three 30-plus point-games:
“(I’m) Definitely going to remember those moments, those were some great moments; especially on my birthday I had an outstanding game (30 points vs. Kansas State, Feb. 11). The fans definitely got me in the mix of the game, and definitely my teammates – I thank my teammates a lot for that helping me, feeding me the ball, and keep pushing me. There are definitely a lot of memories I’m going to remember 10 years, five years from now, that I accomplished here at the University of Kansas.”

On if there is a particular NBA team that he would like to play for:
No, not really. I am a Miami Heat fan, but I really don’t have a team I want to go to and play for.”

Head coach Bill Self
“You’re not going to fall to 30, bud.” [Laughter]

On how big of a rebuilding project next season is for Kansas:
“From the surface, it appears pretty big. You lose five starters: a very high draft pick that will be a lottery pick, and another guy who will be a pro, hopefully one or two more that will have an opportunity to play in the league, and leadership. On the surface I think it will be a huge rebuilding job. We have had rebuilding jobs here many times. We’ve got good guys coming (in). Our recruiting class is ranked second or third in the country. It is a little underrated based on what we think, and we would like to add a piece or two, without question. It’s hard to say if we’re going to be good, or how good, but I would be really surprised if next year’s team isn’t very competitive and competes for championships just like it has the past 10 years or so, since we have been here. It will be a challenge, and it would have been easier if Ben came back, at least on the surface. It is amazing to me with the guys that we have had, we have always had guys – that when others leave – that just step up and find a way. They always just do it. The Perry’s, and the Naadir’s, and the Jamari’s, and everybody else that is returning, they’ll do it (Kansas freshman forward Perry Ellis, sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe and redshirt freshman forward Jamari Traylor). They will figure it out and find a way. We will recruit well, and I think we will be in the mix once again.”

Ben McLemore 2012-13 Postseason Accolades

-Consensus All-America Second Team

-Associated Press All-America Second Team

-John R. Wooden Award All-American

-NABC All-America Second Team

-Lute Olson All-America Team

-USBWA All-America Second Team

-USBWA Freshman All-America

-Third Team All-America by Sporting News

-All-Big 12 First Team (Big 12, AP)

-Big 12 All-Rookie Team

-John R. Wooden Award Final Ballot

-Phillips 66 Big 12 Rookie of the Week (3/4)

-USBWA Oscar Robertson Player of the Year Finalist (1 of 14)

-USBWA Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Finalist (1 of 8)

-Naismith Award Top 30 Candidate

-Phillips 66 Big 12 Rookie of the Week (1/21)

-Sporting News Mid-Season All-American

-Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week (1/14)

-Phillips 66 Big 12 Rookie of the Week (12/24)

-CBE Hall of Fame Classic All-Tournament Team

Kansas freshman record-wise, McLemore’s:

…589 points are a Kansas freshman record. He is the only KU freshman to have scored more than 500 points.

…15.9 ppg set the KU freshman record of 14.6 ppg held by Danny Manning in 1985.

…87.0 free throw percentage is first on the Kansas freshman list.

…73 three-pointers made in 2012-13 are third on the KU freshman list (Jeff Boschee, 79 in 1999 and J.R. Giddens, 74 in 2004).

…42.0 three-point field goal percentage is fourth on the KU freshman list.

…5.2 rebound average rank 11th on the KU freshman list.

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