McLemore declares for the NBA Draft

Sitting inside Allen Fieldhouse on a dark, overcast Lawrence afternoon, coach Bill Self couldn’t contain his smile as he quipped about how he expected freshman guard Ben McLemore to announce he would return for his sophomore year.

That remark drew quite a few laughs as the Jayhawks’ all-time leading freshman scorer had already revealed his true plans for next season.

Tyler Roste/KANSAN Ben McLemore, along with head coach Bill Self, answer questions at press conference held for the announcement that McLemore would be entering the NBA draft. McLemore emphasized how much he had come to learn at the University and that he would never forget his coaches, teammates, and the fans.

Tyler Roste/KANSAN
Ben McLemore, along with head coach Bill Self, answer questions at press conference held for the announcement that McLemore would be entering the NBA draft. McLemore emphasized how much he had come to learn at the University and that he would never forget his coaches, teammates, and the fans.

“I made the decision that I was going to enter the NBA Draft,” McLemore said. “My teammates and the coaches, they definitely said ‘if it’s your time, it’s your time.’ It was my time.”

McLemore, who hasn’t hired an agent yet, said he didn’t expect at the beginning of the year to play only one year of basketball at Kansas after sitting out last season as redshirt because he was a partial qualifier. But he averaged 15.9 points per game to lead the Jayhawks in scoring and finished the year with 589 points.

If he had stayed four years at Kansas and scored at the same rate he did last season, he would have left school as the Jayhawks’ second-leading career scorer behind Danny Manning’s 2,951 points.

“Really there was no decision to be made,” Self said. “I think that anybody with a clear conscience at all would have to say ‘hey go for it when the time’s right’ and the time is definitely right.”

Chad Ford of ESPN slotted McLemore third in his first mock draft, while draftexpress.com projects McLemore as the second pick, and nbadraft.net picked him first overall in its current mock draft.

Although McLemore said this was the right decision for his family, he wiped away tears as he exited through the Fieldhouse concourse with family members. McLemore loved the fans at Kansas, and thanked them several times during the press conference. He often attended women’s games, in part to sign autographs for fans. He’s so nice, Self said, that it isn’t always positive for him as a basketball player, because he sometimes needs to adopt a mean streak.

Self said McLemore told him as late as February that he planned to return for his sophomore campaign, although Self joked that McLemore wasn’t willing to make a public announcement about that proclamation. Even if McLemore did want to return, Self would advise him it would be in his best interest to turn pro.

“If he told me that he wanted to come back I would tell him ‘well Ben, we need to look at this again,’” Self said. “I don’t think there was one time that our staff sat around this year and said ‘we hope Ben comes back.’ That didn’t happen once.”

The NCAA ruled McLemore a partial qualifier last season, meaning he could practice with Kansas during the second semester of the 2011-2012 season but could not play. Freshman forward Jamari Traylor was in the same circumstance, and McLemore said he developed a special relationship with Traylor because it.

Traylor and most of the other Jayhawks attended McLemore’s announcement.

McLemore said one of his goals has always been to eventually provide for his family, as he grew up in poverty in St. Louis. Being a certain lottery pick in the NBA Draft gives McLemore the ability to do that.

“Growing up with not having a lot, I don’t need to talk about what I don’t have,” McLemore said. “I just talk about what I want to try to get and try to help my family. Being little, growing up, you just think about you want to provide for your family.”

McLemore’s departure means Self must replace all five of his starters for the first time since losing all of his starters from the 2008 national championship team. Mario Chalmers was one of those starters that season, and he now plays for the Miami Heat, a team that McLemore said he’s always been partial to. But he said he doesn’t have a preference which team selects him. As Self noted, it probably won’t be the Heat, who has the NBA’s best record.

“You’re not going to fall to (pick No.) 30, bud,” Self said, laughing.

  • Updated Apr. 10, 2013 at 12:17 am
  • Edited by Dylan Lysen
  • Odessa Belosic

    Though McLemore is a freshman at KU he’s a GREAT basketball player and he really deserves this I’m really excited to see him go pro but it’s sad to see him go I think he can do this GO McLEMORE!! from your #1 fan Odessa Belosic