McLemore finally ready to compete

McLemore finally ready to compete

Though he's been a member of the University of Kansas basketball program for more than a year, Ben McLemore has yet to face an opponent who wasn't also his teammate. Now eligible for competition, the high-flying talent from St. Louis is as excited as anyone for the Jayhawks' upcoming exhibition tour of Europe.

As one might imagine, Ben McLemore has been waiting for this opportunity with great anticipation.

A 6-foot-5, 185-pound guard prospect who hails from St. Louis, every Kansas fan knows his story right now. After a protracted recruitment, McLemore signed with the Jayhawks - only to be declared a partial qualifier by the NCAA.

As stipulated by the Big 12, McLemore and fellow 2011 freshman Jamari Traylor were forced to sit out the entirety of the 2011-2012 season, though they were allowed to begin practicing with the team during the second semester.

Billed as a quality outside shooter and out-of-this-world athlete with substantial upside, once he hit the practice floor word began to spread that he was putting in the work and looking as good as advertised. In recent months, Head Coach Bill Self hasn't been shy in his praise for McLemore, setting high expectations for him during the season ahead.

When asked if that praise adds any pressure to his shoulders, McLemore just smiles.

"I definitely like it," he said. "It's just a motivator. (To) just keep on getting into the gym and work hard every day."

Saturday, the Jayhawks held the last of 10 allotted practices before heading out on a pre-season exhibition tour, with games in both France and Switzerland during the next two weeks. Members of the media were allowed to attend the almost two-hour session, which consisted largely of a 40-minute scrimmage and fast-paced drill work.

McLemore bumped his leg during the second quarter of the scrimmage and sat out the remainder of practice, but 10 minutes was more than enough to give those in attendance a glimpse at just what all the fuss was about.

He splashed a trio of three-pointers, including one at the buzzer, and tallied double digit points. He played defense, he rebounded. He did a little bit of everything.

Self expected no less.

"Ben is good offensively," he explained. "He is good offensively. He can do a lot of things, he's so athletic. But right now he's more of a shooter and just an athlete rather than really knowing how to plug himself in and use his athletic ability. He's going to be a nice player."

Thus far in his brief career, McLemore has yet to face an opponent who wasn't a teammate - be it during Late Night in the Phog, summer basketball camp scrimmages, pickup sessions or simply practice.

On Aug. 7, he and the rest of the Jayhawks will take on the Swiss National Team in Fribourg, Switzerland, and at long last he'll guard someone in a jersey different than his own.

"I've been waiting on this for a long time," McLemore said, smiling. "I'm happy, I can't wait. I'm excited just to go over there and have fun."

"It hasn't hit me yet," he added. "But now once I get over there I'm going to be like 'Man, it's finally here. I get to play finally for Kansas.'"

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