Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey were expected to bring consistency, athleticism, and dynamic abilities on both ends of the court to the Jayhawks this season. The talented duo has led Kansas to an 19-1 record, a first-place spot in the Big 12, a No. 1 ranking, and they might be heading toward a rare honor, even by prestigious KU standards.
Both McLemore and Withey were named to the 12-person Oscar Robert Trophy midseason watch list. The award is given to the national player of the year in college basketball. Various midseason watch lists have proven to be excellent predictors of postseason awards.
As the freshman phenom shoots up draft boards and the shot-blocking fifth-year senior continues to prove he is the best inside defender in the nation, they have a realistic chance at becoming only the seventh pair in Kansas basketball history to receive First Team All-American honors in the same season.
While the program with nearly 2,100 wins boasts 58 First Team All-American selections with 28 consensus, only six Kansas teams featured at least two First Team All-Americans:
1923: Charlie T. Black and Paul Endacott
1925: Tusten Ackerman, Gale Gordon and Al Peterson
1943: Ray Evans and Charles B. Black
1997: Raef LaFrentz and Jacque Vaughn
1998: Paul Pierce and Raef LaFrentz
2003: Kirk Hinrch and Nick Collison
Jeff Withey leads a menacing defense ranked first in the nation in field goal percentage (35.0) and is the No. 3 ranked shot-blocker at 4.3 per game. Furthermore, the 7'0" center has committed only 29 fouls in shutting down opposing big men and aggressive guards.
Ben McLemore has easily provided the most consistent scoring punch for an offense averaging only 62 points per game in their last six contests, failing to eclipse 67 in each. He leads Kansas in scoring (16.1 poinst per game) and has been their most reliable perimeter shooter, hitting over 45 percent of his three-point looks.
Like Withey, the 10th-year KU coach knew he also had something special in McLemore, discussing the redshirt freshman last summer: “Ben’s talent level is off the charts. He’s good. I mean, he’s as talented as just about anybody we’ve had come through there."
That's quite the proclamation, considering Self has coached the likes of Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, and Sherron Collins amongst many other elite playmakers.
Both players will certainly receive ample opportunity for impressions as they barrel toward a ninth-straight conference title, but they face stiff competition.
Others that may prevent McLemore and Withey from becoming only KU's seventh teammate duo to become First Team All-Americans include Michigan's Trey Burke, Indiana's Victor Oladipo, Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas, Duke's Mason Plumlee, and press-favorite Doug McDermott from Creighton.