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Bob Lutz: McLemore is two players in one — which isn’t always good

  • Published Wednesday, March 27, 2013, at 12:01 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, August 25, 2013, at 9:02 a.m.

Ben McLemore, you’re confusing me.

I don’t know whether you’re the next big thing in the NBA or a guy who should get to the front of the line for fall enrollment at Kansas.

You look dynamic at times and your statistics as a redshirt freshman – 15.8 points, 49.4 shooting percentage, 41.6 three-point percentage — stack up.

You’re not Xavier Henry or Josh Selby, prized KU freshmen from the recent past who left after one college season of eligibility and struggled to gain a foothold in the NBA. Henry is playing 11 minutes a game for New Orleans; Selby was released by the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this month.

At times, you look like the next Paul Pierce. And at other times, not so much.

In two NCAA Tournament games – the largest stage on which you’ve performed – you’re 1 for 13 with four points. You had five points in the Big 12 championship game against Kansas State. What do those three games have in common? They were played at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, where KU played eight games.

In those eight games, McLemore averaged a ho-hum 10.8 points. Let’s hope that NBA team in Kansas City doesn’t draft you. Oh, wait.

Sometimes, Ben, you look lost. Why is that? You’ve been in the KU program two years now. Last season it was all about practice, working out the wrinkles, setting the stage for your 2012-13 breakout. And make no mistake, there are times when you break out. But there are too many other times when it looks like you want to be put right back in.

You never got into the flow of the game in KU’s harrowing second-round NCAA Tournament win over Western Kentucky, a 16-seed. The Hilltoppers are a long way from being the Miami Heat – or the Charlotte Bobcats, for that matter.

Then, in the second half of the game against North Carolina on Sunday afternoon, when everything finally clicked, you were on the bench. Not clicking. Not even ticking. Your time was up.

Everything about you says NBA star except, occasionally, your stat line. Two points against Western Kentucky? We need to work on that.

But the lure of the NBA, and all of its millions of dollars, beckons. Even with your recent slump, Ben, it’s difficult to imagine you won’t be a top-five pick in June’s draft. Heck, you might be the first guy chosen.

Your family could use the money. You could use the money, of course. Who couldn’t use that kind of money?

Henry got a nice bonus as the No. 12 pick of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2010. Now he’s withering away in New Orleans, still only 22 but with an NBA future that is cloudy at best.

Selby wasn’t even a very good player at KU, but still was drafted No. 49 overall because of his potential. Potential that hasn’t been realized as he now fights for his basketball life.

Like I said, Ben, you’re a better player than those guys. You have a chance to be a Kyrie Irving or a John Wall.

I think.

Like I said, it’s confusing.

There are times when you look like you’re making college basketball a playground, like it’s just not much of a challenge. You had that incredible 33-point game against Iowa State at Allen Fieldhouse this season and literally won that game for the Jayhawks.

You had 30 against Kansas State; 36 against West Virginia. You score, rebound, pass, defense. You’re the complete 6-foot-5 package.

But you averaged just more than 10 points during a four-game stretch from Feb. 16-25, then a stretch when you averaged 24 points in the next four games. Over the past four, it’s 6.5.

What gives?

Are you ready for the NBA or aren’t you?

A part of me thinks you’d be a fool not to take the money, regardless. It’s money, after all, and it spends the same whether you make it big or you don’t.

But there’s another part of me that worries about your legacy. Would it be a good idea to stay at Kansas after senior teammates Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Kevin Young have departed? Would it be a good idea to play a season at KU as the top dog, the veteran leader of a young team with many new faces?

I think you should stay. No, you probably should go. See what a conundrum you’ve created?

Here’s an idea, Ben. Why don’t you just go out Friday against Michigan and relax. Play the game. Let it flow. Maybe all of this NBA stuff is distracting you from what’s really important.

Do that and the rest will take care of itself. Have your cake and eat it, too. You can’t beat a double dose of cake.

Check Bob Lutz’s blog at blogs.kansas.com/lutz. Reach him at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com.

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