Kansas freshman Ben McLemore is standing in the hallway next to the team's locker room in Allen Fieldhouse. After a KU women's team has defeated Texas on a weeknight in mid-January, he is surrounded by a mob of Jayhawk fans (a McLemob some have called them).
McLemore is a lock to be selected within the top five picks of the NBA draft in June, and there’s a good chance he could be the No.1 overall pick…if he chooses to end his college career after this season.
It would be unusual (to a say the least) for a player of McLemore’s caliber to forgo the draft and play a sophomore season, but there are some reasons if you look deep enough. At least, Kansas fans can dream.
It is difficult to tell exactly who McLemore is. He is usually quiet. He keeps his answers short during postgame press conferences but always gives credit to his teammates. He dances in the locker room. His twitter handle says a lot; you can follow him at @Humb1e_Hungry23.
During the year and a half before he arrived at Kansas, McLemore attended three high schools in three states. His original school in St. Louis was closed.
After that year of academic instability, McLemore was ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA to play for the Jayhawks last season. McLemore may be gaining a sense of consistency at Kansas after two years with the program. The coaching staff and team at Kansas have a strong family feel to them as a group, and McLemore could be a leader of the family next season.
He may be a leader, in his own way, already.
Of course, when a young man has the opportunity to not only set himself up financially for the rest of his life, but also provide a better life for his family, you can’t say that he shouldn't leave. There would be a lot of risk involved in returning.
I strongly doubt that Kansas coach Bill Self will advise McLemore to stay another year. Many players in the past seem to have listened to coach Self’s advice most intently.
McLemore is not most players. He is more talented than any other player during the Bill Self era at Kansas. I believe that’s why he almost has to go after this year. I’m not sure the risks of injuries outweigh the reward of an extra year in college.
This all depends on how this season plays out right now, and it’s something to think about, but if McLemore does decide to return for another year it would be great for college basketball.
There would be an unbelievable early-season matchup between McLemore and incoming freshman Jabari Parker, as Duke and Kansas meet in the Champions Classic in Chicago next season. Presuming that Kansas would win that matchup, McLemore would likely be the face of the college game next season.
Ben McLemore seems to enjoy being at Kansas. He could always play another year, maybe get some playing time with his friend Jamari Traylor, and continue to mature on and off the court. Not that he needs it.
Kansas would still be losing four senior starters, but next season they would be a possible top-ranked team to start the season.
We should keep in mind that if all goes well for Ben McLemore, he will most likely and probably should be an NBA rookie next season. Either way, he's a college player that is worth watching every opportunity. Don't expect him to be in a Kansas uniform for long.
Kansas fans are making the most of these McLemoments, and McLemore seems to be enjoying himself as well.