Ben McLemore, center, courtesy of stltoday.com
The title hopes of the 2011-12 Kansas Jayhawks took a hit back in October, when the school was told the NCAA would declare high-profile recruit Ben McLemore ineligible.
In the end, his absence did not hurt Kansas’ winning nature. The Jayhawks still managed to win the Big 12 regular season championship and make it all the way the national championship game.
However, there is a lot of excitement regarding McLemore, a small forward, among Jayhawks fans and the basketball program, and for good reason. He came to Kansas with a 4-star rating by ESPN Recruiting Nation Basketball and was considered to be around the 15th best small forward of the 2011 class.
There is little doubt that McLemore is a fantastic athlete and head coach Bill Self knows how to develop the athletic talent that comes his way. Standing at 6’5", McLemore is a little short for the forward position, but his vertical and athleticism make up for any loss of inches off of his height.
In addition to his athleticism, McLemore is a good ball handler that has shown an increase in the skill over time. He now has a good set of dribble skills and can find a way to get open off of the less-talented defenders that he will inevitably be matched up with.
His pairing of his ball handling with his athleticism is interesting to watch, as he is skilled at dribbling up the lane or from the wing and finishing on the rim.
In the end, though, where the most exciting aspect of McLemore’s game lies is in his shooting and scoring ability.
Even before he signed with Kansas, McLemore possessed a very solid and smooth shooting technique, allowing for him to put up plenty of points. He has a very reliable mid-range game and continues to improve in his three-point shot; to the point now where he can sink most baskets from beyond the arc, so long as he is not smothered by defenders and is allowed to perform his technique.
It is safe to bet that McLemore has continued to improve his shooting game in his off year, and it will be fun to see what Self has done with his already high skill level.
As for weaknesses, the consensus looks to be that McLemore needs to bulk up. At the time of his recruitment, he was around 185 lbs. and a little wiry for his frame.
If he was able to add muscle to his body and gain in strength this past season, he will be an even bigger threat in the paint or in his attacks at the basket. The strength will also improve his rebounding ability.
The McLemore of today is hard to analyze, simply because of the fact that the public did not have the opportunity to see him play last season. However, Kansas Jayhawks fans have a great player waiting in the wings, who has extreme pro potential and can most certainly lead the team to another deep run at the postseason.