Former Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore, expected to be a top pick in the 2013 NBA draft, spoke out on Friday about allegations that his AAU coach took money in order to steer him in a direction that would have otherwise never happened.
Speaking to Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated at the NBA combine, McLemore denied any knowledge of the money exchanged between those in question and his former AAU coach, Darius Cobb, who came out in early May and admitted to accepting money to help McLemore make a final decision that benefited Rodney Blackstock, the man who reportedly gave Cobb the money.
No longer under any NCAA rules after leaving Kansas and declaring for the 2013 NBA draft, McLemore spoke out on Friday in a willing and guilt-free manner, telling Davis he was ready to cooperate with the NCAA should an official investigation take place.
"I would tell them the truth and tell them what I know, and just cooperate with them," McLemore said. "Hopefully they'll cooperate with me and hear my side."
He continued by expressing shock about the Cobb confession and admitted that the parties involved have been pushed away from his inner circle in the wake of Eric Prisbell's USA Today report that implicated Cobb and Rodney Blackstock, the head of Hooplife Academy, in exchanging money:
"My reaction was like, 'Wow,'" he said. "That was someone that I could trust, and I put a person in my circle that I felt comfortable with and I know a long time that I wanted to help me through this process [of selecting an agent]. And for him to say the things he did and put that out there like that, I wish it wasn't true ... [Cobb] put me in jeopardy and my family in jeopardy."
McLemore said that he has not spoken with Cobb since the article was published -- "I've pushed him out of my circle," he said -- and that the story was the first he had heard about payments from Blackstock to Cobb. "I didn't see no money going around. My mom hasn't seen no money going around. We don't know nothing about it," he said. "So it was kind of new to me."
The money was intended to help Cobb decide to sway McLemore toward Blackstock—who attended Kansas games, per multiple reports—when he was ready to hire an agent.
McLemore finished the interview by stating that he hopes the allegations do not harm Kansas University, and that he does not want to be an athlete "that can't be allowed to come back" because of the events that have transpired.
While the allegations do not directly implicate Kansas in any of this scandal, it's an issue that could come back to bite the Jayhawks in the form of an NCAA sanction should the entity choose to launch an investigation.
One of the most explosive players during the 2012-13 college basketball season, McLemore averaged 15.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists during his redshirt freshman season for coach Bill Self and staff.
He wowed us all with his ability to get above the rim, buckle down on defense and drill the three-point shot—McLemore finished with a 42 percent clip from deep during his only season in Lawrence.
In Chicago this week for the NBA combine, McLemore is not participating in the drills portion of the event (like most lottery picks avoid) but is part of the athletic and measurement process.
Expected to be a top-five pick in the draft with his sights set on being No. 1, McLemore's candid confession of naiveté could prompt the NCAA to declare his time at Kansas void and not representative of having "amateur" status.
SI.com's Andy Glockner is among those who feel that McLemore doesn't need to say anything at all:
Someone needs to tell Ben McLemore that he doesn't need to say anything.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) May 17, 2013
With recruiting violations a part of the NCAA now on what seems like a daily basis, McLemore maintaining innocence in this matter shouldn't be a shock. However, if the NCAA decides to launch a full-scale investigation, it could come back in the form of vacating wins or a postseason suspension for Kansas.