In a decision that shocked literally no one, Ben McLemore announced Tuesday that he would leave the University of Kansas to enter the NBA Draft, departing KU after one year of eligibility.
With his departure, the Jayhawks are guaranteed to have a new starting five when the season begins in November, but that’s a topic for another day. Tuesday was about celebrating a player who captivated fans with his knack for show-stopping big plays and a player who has tremendous promise at the next level.
“This isn’t bittersweet, this is sweet-sweet,” head coach Bill Self said.
McLemore averaged 15.9 points per game in 2012-13, breaking the Kansas freshman record of 14.6 held by Danny Manning in 1985. He also scored 589 points which also broke a KU freshman mark, along with his 87.0 free throw percentage.
He was named a Consensus All-America Second Team selection and All-Big 12 First Team. Despite being a redshirt freshman, McLemore led Kansas in scoring in 2012-13 with 15.9 points per game, which ranked third in the Big 12. He also earned Big Rookie of the Week honors three times, as well as being named the league’s player of the week once.
“I want to thank my teammates a lot for supporting me and always pushing me each and every day at practice,” McLemore said. “I love those guys. It was great playing with those guys. I want to thank my family and the coaching staff, too, but most of all I want to thank the KU fans. Without the KU fans, Kansas wouldn’t be like this. The KU fans are great and I’d like to thank them a lot for cheering me on and cheering this whole program on. I love that about Kansas. That’s the reason I came here.”
Self believes McLemore could wind up being drafted in the top five, saying that he’s consistently being projected in the top three in any particular order.
Surrounded by his family, teammates and friend alike, McLemore found the decision to be a tough one, but it was Self who was his biggest supporter.
"The NBA people appear to like him quite a bit. There was no decision to be made," Self said.
Moving forward, Self said the Jayhawks may not be done yet adding pieces to the makeup of what will be the 2013-14 team, saying they could still add another piece or two.
However, on this day, the story was McLemore and his chance to fulfill a dream he has since he was a child.
"As a kid that's what I wanted to do, and now I've got the opportunity to do that and provide for my family,” McLemore said. "If it's your time, it's your time and it's my time."