McLemore and Tharpe already at home in Lawrence

June 5, 2011

Lawrence, Kan. –

Kansas men’s basketball freshman recruits Ben McLemore and Naadir Tharpe made their first appearance Sunday at Allen Fieldhouse as official members of Coach Bill Self’s basketball squad. The two joined their other teammates at an autograph signing during the first session of Self’s individual summer basketball camps.

“It is a relief and I am glad I am finally here,” McLemore said, who made the almost five-hour drive from his St. Louis home to Lawrence with his cousins and mother on Saturday evening.

“Now that I am here, I just need to stay focused on my books and work hard every day at practice,” the 6-5 forward said.

While McLemore’s performance in the classroom and on the court will be his focus throughout the summer, Sunday was all about becoming comfortable in his new surroundings.

“Players told me it was going to be like this when I came here, but I had to see it for myself,” the freshman said about the KU fans’ passion and enthusiasm. “It is pretty amazing that all these people are here and want my autograph,” he said.

Fellow freshman Naadir Tharpe shared McLemore’s amazement about the special place Kansas Basketball holds in Lawrence and around the nation.

“It has been pretty amazing seeing people come around here that have previously played on the team,” said Tharpe. “There are a lot of fans here who love KU, so it is pretty exciting to me.”

The 6-0 point guard said he followed KU’s games on television closely last season, so his transition this fall could be that much easier.

“Last year I was really paying attention to guard play,” Tharpe said, who averaged 13-points and six assists during his senior season at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H. “I wanted to see what the guards were doing on offense and defense, so that way I could be a step ahead when I came here.”

Once an incoming freshman himself, Brewster Academy alum and now KU junior Thomas Robinson knows what McLemore and Tharpe are going through during their first few hours on campus.

“You cannot help but feel overwhelmed because there is no other place like this, where the fan base treats you the way they do,” Robinson said. “So I could see how coming straight out of high school and experiencing all the love and attention we get could be a bit overwhelming.”

With that said, Robinson and his fellow upperclassmen know they have the important task of making sure the new recruits feel right at home.

“We know that it is our job (as upperclassmen) to take them under our wing,” he said. “It is a weird feeling for me to make that transition myself because not too long ago I was under someone else’s wing, and now I am taking somebody under mine.”

Still, Robinson likes what he sees so far out of the first two of four total freshman to step foot on KU’s campus this fall.

“They have only been here one day so I really can’t jump to too many conclusions, but they have both blended in pretty well so far,” he said. “These guys (McLemore and Tharpe) have their heads on straight and they know that they have come here to work hard, so I think they will be just fine.”