Kansas senior Jeff Withey and redshirt freshman Ben McLemore have been named to the 12-person Oscar Robertson Trophy National Player of the Year Midseason Watch List by the United States Basketball Writers Association of America (USBWA), the organization announced Thursday.
The USBWA also released its Wayman Tisdale Award National Freshman of the Year Watch List on Thursday and McLemore was among the 12 players named. The St. Louis, Mo., guard is the only player named to both watch lists. Kansas and Indiana are the only schools to have two players on the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Year list.
“Ben and Jeff are having solid seasons to date and are in the position to have great years only if we continue to win in our league and play well,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said.
Named to the Sporting News Mid-Season All-American team Jan. 15, McLemore leads Kansas in scoring at 16.1 points per game, which leads all Big 12 freshmen and ranks second overall in the conference. The Jan. 14 Big 12 Player of the Week and two-time conference rookie of the week, McLemore leads the Big 12 in free throw percentage (86.7) and is second in three-point field goal percentage (45.1). He has a team-high 37 three-pointers made and is second on the team with 24 steals. A Wooden Award Mid-Season Top 25 honoree, McLemore has five games with 20 or more points this in 2012-13, including a 33-point effort in Kansas’ 97-89 overtime win against Iowa State.
If the season ended today, McLemore’s 16.1 scoring average would break the Kansas freshman scoring average record of 14.6 points per game set by Jayhawk legend Danny Manning in 1985.
“Being named to both lists is pretty cool,” McLemore said. “There is no way I could get these (honors) without my teammates and coaches. We have a lot of work to do to reach our goals of winning a conference title and doing well in the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.”
Withey leads Kansas in rebounding at 8.3 rebounds per game and has seven double-doubles this season. Both statistics rank third in the Big 12. The San Diego, Calif., center leads the league in blocked shots at 4.3 per game, which is third nationally. Also Wooden Award Mid-Season Top 25 and the 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Withey is scoring 13.1 points per outing and his 86 blocked shots this season are more than six Big 12 teams.
Withey, who set the Big 12 and Kansas single-season blocked shot record last year with 140, including an NCAA Tournament-record 31, has 251 career blocked shots to date. He is seven away from the Kansas record of 258 held by Greg Ostertag (1992-95) and 13 from the Big 12 all-time record of 264 by Chris Mihm of Texas (1998-2000).
“I’m honored to be named and with Ben it’s a reflection of how our team is doing more than what Ben and I are doing,” Withey said.
KUAD: Kansas vs OSU pregame notes
KUAD: KU previews OSU
Oklahoma State goes to Kansas on Saturday as the Cowboys continue to look for a significant road victory that will put them comfortably in the NCAA Tournament picture.
But the reason OSU at Kansas is a must-watch is Smart and McLemore, two of the most dynamic players in college basketball.
Smart was at his best and showed why he might be the nation's most complete player in the victory over Iowa State.
"He's one of the best players in the country," said Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. "He does everything for them."
Smart's line in the box score tells the story: 21 points (on 9-of-15 shooting), seven assists, six rebounds, four steals and just one turnover.
He also had buzzer-beater shots at halftime (a half-courter to trim ISU's lead to four) and with three seconds left to give OSU the 78-76 victory.
...OSU was good enough to beat North Carolina State, one of the nation's top teams, on a neutral court early in the season.
The Cowboys have the kind of talent that makes one believe they could be a dangerous NCAA Tournament team. However, the way they have played leaves plenty of doubt about OSU's chances to make it.
…Although Smart was the hero against the Cyclones, the comeback would not have been possible with Forte's two steals down the stretch. "It is not about his size," said Smart. "The guy is a competitor."
Forte has been terrific in the last two games, scoring 43 points combined against West Virginia and Iowa State. But when OSU needed to make a defensive stop or two in the final minutes against the Cyclones, Forte came up with the plays.
…The Cowboys probably should have beaten Gonzaga and had a great chance to win on the road at Kansas State. If they had won those two games, the perception of OSU would be far different.
Oklahoma State at Kansas, 4 p.m., Big 12 Network
The Jayhawks are hard enough to beat in Allen Fieldhouse, much less with six days' rest after their win at West Virginia on Monday. I also expect KU will have a defensive gameplan for Cowboys freshman Marcus Smart, who had 21 points and seven rebounds in the Pokes' win over Iowa State Wednesday night.
Kansas 78, Oklahoma State 64
…I'm just gonna pencil in Kansas and Florida as number one seeds, if only because they are so head and shoulders above the other teams in their respective conferences.
SI Seth Davis Hoop Thoughts
Even though he had committed to San Diego State, Young said he felt he owed it to himself — after all he had done to keep basketball in his life — to check out KU.
“The first thing that went through my mind was that Kansas was a bigger stage,” he said with a smile. “I always remembered when I was looking at Missouri, people told me I wouldn’t be able to play in the Big 12 and this was an opportunity to prove them wrong. So I came here on an unofficial visit and I just never really left.”
Each time Young reached a turning point, his parents left the decisions to him. Others did not.
“To us, Kansas is like the holy grail,” said Fraser, who watches every KU game with a group of Young’s Barstow buddies. “When he said he had a chance to go to Kansas, I said, ‘You go there for the education, buddy.’ I said, ‘If you get to play, if you even get to step on the court, you are blessed.’”
Good credits Young’s path and persistence — from his immediate impact at LMU to three transfers, a stint as dorm president, a coaching gig and regular scrimmages with nine women — for landing him in the position he’s in today.
“He already had an incredible motor,” Good said. “But going through all of that probably hardened his nose even more. I’m sure he’s tickled to death to be where he is and I’m tickled to death for him.”
For many athletes, the appreciation part of the experience usually comes much later, years down the road when the letter jacket no longer fits and the newspaper clippings have started to yellow. Not Young.
“Every time I watch the intro video and they show all the past players and all the history, it’s like, ‘I’m a part of this now,’” he said. “People don’t always understand that they’re living in history, that they’re creating history. I’m just grateful.”
Those who know him best don’t need to hear it to know it.
“It doesn’t come into conversations when we talk and stuff, but I understand it,” said Young’s father. “Every time I see him play, I can tell.”
Added Morales: “I always knew he would get back to playing because I knew how much it meant to him. What I like, when I see him out there, is he’s enjoying it. He loves it. And I’m just so proud that he made it here. He considers this home.”
LJW: Kevin Young's journey to KU
When Greg Ostertag is not fishing, golfing or running “a little spice business called Smokehouse Salt Company,” he’s monitoring the progress of Kansas University’s basketball team.
Like last year, that means watching fellow 7-footer Jeff Withey block shot after shot and creep ever so closer to his own school-record block total of 258 set from 1992 to ’95.
Withey needs seven blocks Saturday against Oklahoma State (3 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse) to tie and eight rejections to pass Ostertag as No. 1 human eraser in school annals.
“You know what? The record wasn’t going to stand forever. Absolutely I’m happy for him,” Ostertag told the Journal-World in a phone interview from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. “I held the record for 20 years. Barring anything crazy happening to him, his record will probably stand for 20 years ... then it’ll be broken.
“I’m proud to have held the record at a prestigious school like KU for as long as I did,” Ostertag added. “You’ve got to look at it ... Jeff hardly played his first two years. If he played as much as he did the last two years he’d probably have broken it last year. Same with me. For my career, I averaged 18 minutes a game or something like that. Had I played more, my block total would have been higher. I’m absolutely happy for him. I think it’s cool to have held onto it for so long.”
Withey’s defensive numbers have decreased during Big 12 play. He’s averaging just 2.6 blocks in seven conference games. Some of that can be pinned on tougher competition. But much of it stems from the fact teams are refusing to challenge Kansas in the paint.
“Teams are really trying to attack us outside the paint,” KU coach Bill Self said, “which that’s OK. But that’s one reason I think his numbers are going down a little bit."
Even as the block numbers have decreased, other numbers continue to confirm Withey’s defensive impact. The Jayhawks are leading the country in two-point field-goal percentage defense (37.2) and are second in block percentage (19.2) — a number that measures the percentage of two-point field goals a team blocks.
With just two months remaining in his college career, Withey is hopeful his blocking acumen will translate to the next level.
“I think so,” Withey said. “That’s what I do. I did it in high school. I did it in college. And next year, hopefully, I’ll have an opportunity to block shots in the NBA.”
St. Louis Majestics AAU coach Darius Cobb who also is a close family friend and mentor to Ben…Cobb updated the Journal-World on Ben’s possibly heading to the NBA after this season. Basically there’s to be no NBA talk until after the season ends.
“At the end of the day, he’s having fun, learning the system at Kansas, how to play in front of crowds. Let him have fun,” Cobb said. “In March we’ll sit down and talk with coach (Bill Self). Coach will give us the right information. He won’t hold anything back. Now we talk about, ‘How was the crowd at West Virginia?’ Things like that. Really what we talk about the most, what we say to him all the time is, ‘Books and basketball, stay hungry and it’s OK to be great.’”
“I think that we are careless and lazy, as much as anything else,” Self said. “Guys pick the ball up and put the ball over their head.
“The same way we turned it over against Oklahoma when they threw that little 2-2-1 press at us, I go back and watch the Oklahoma State game from last year, and we did the exact same thing.”
Turnovers are magnified in the kind of low-possession games KU has been playing. Against West Virginia, for example, more than a quarter of the Jayhawks’ possessions resulted in turnovers forced by the Mountaineers.
Instead of exploiting teams’ defensive pressure, Self said, the Jayhawks have been bothered by it.
“We’ve always been a team that thrived and wanted so bad for other team to press or trap us because our guards have always been so good to get the ball behind the trap, and then you’re playing with numbers,” Self said. “That’s what we talked about (Wednesday) in practice: We’ve got to get back to being that. I think we can. We have been careless with it.”
The burden doesn’t rest solely with KU’s point guards, though that’s a place to start. Elijah Johnson has 28 assists and 27 turnovers in league play, and backup Naadir Tharpe has 11 of each.
“If you look at the makeup of our team, we don’t have the same ballhandlers in numbers and passers as what we’ve had in past years,” Self said. “We’ve got to do a much better job of relieving pressure with our bigs and getting everybody to be a little bit less careless moving forward.”
Jayhawks nearly flawless
Kansas is two possessions away from being undefeated.
The Jayhawks have reeled off 18 consecutive victories since the loss on Nov. 13 down in Atlanta to Michigan State -- and Bill Self's team has done it largely on behalf of its stingy defense. Self has one of the top interior defenders and shot blockers in the nation in Jeff Withey, but he also has one of the better perimeter defenders in the country with fellow veteran Travis Releford.
"At times, it's been a labor to score," Self said. "We've won games in the 60s, 70s and 80s."
Elijah Johnson hasn't lived up to the expectations, and has struggled shooting the ball, but this Jayhawks team has had different guys step up. Redshirt freshman Ben McLemore leads the team in scoring at 16.1 points, while Withey and Releford both add about 13 per contest. Self admits his team has been fortunate to some degree. His players have made plays with the game on the line.
Self's concern, after losing Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor, was toughness.
"We don't have any assassins," Self said. "But we have enough confident kids."
Self doesn't have any illusions about running through the Big 12 without a blemish. The Jayhawks have won their first seven league games, and Self almost feels as though this group may need a setback soon.
"A little bit," he said. "This is a unique bunch of guys, and I'm hoping they learn lessons through winning. But we're going to get beat."
…Coach of the Year race
1. Bill Self, Kansas: He did an amazing job last season showing everyone he wasn't just a recruiter, leading the Jayhawks to the national title game. Now he has this team at No. 2 in the nation with just a single loss.
Earlier this month, Kansas Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Performance, Andrea Hudy was voted by her peers as the 2012 National Strength Coach of the Year.
In the last six months Kansas has invested in new equipment that gives them invaluable data and insight into their student-athletes that a college athletic program has never had before.
"I think we are setting standards in terms of sports performance," Hudy said.
The first type of equipment has given Kansas an edge is from EliteForm, a Nebraska based technology company that has changed the way the Kansas coaches measure the results of a workout.
Coaches have always been able to track how much weight a player lifts, but the difficulty was being able to quantify the intensity or the speed of the lift because they had to rely on their own subjective judgment. This technology changes that.
Attached over the lifting rack are two 3D cameras that digitally records the lift and measures the speed of the bar. The equipment will measure both the meters per second of the lift and overall wattage which is the power generated during the lift. This allows the coach to calculate the intensity of the lift with raw numbers.
"What this does is create quality reps and more intent reps for us," Hudy said. "We probably have less training time because we can pinpoint what we need to get. We can get more efficient with what we do."
Under the 3D cameras on the rack is a touch screen tablet. When a student-athlete arrives at a lifting station, they can type in their name and get that day's workout. The software stores the historical lifting data digitally for each player so the coaches and players can track the progress and truly see what is happening in their development.
"It is a lot more competitive in the weight room now because it shows every single rep you are doing," Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe said. "I feel like people are trying to do the best they can than just going in and getting the rep done."
PGE Turow Zgorzelec (TBL) added to their roster 27-year old American (has also Guinean passport) point guard Russell Robinson (185-90kg-86). He just played at Angelico Biella in Italian SerieA. In 15 games this season he recorded 12.6ppg, 2.3rpg, 2.1apg and 2.4spg. The last season Robinson played at Trabzonspor (TB2L) in Turkish league. In 18 games last year he averaged 13.4ppg, 2.4rpg, 3.2apg and 2.1spg (in top 2). He also played at JSF Nanterre (ProA) in French league earlier that season. In 18 games he averaged 13.4ppg, 2.4rpg and 3.2apg. The other team Robinson played that season for was FIATC Joventut (ACB) in Spanish league. In 34 games that year he averaged 9.6ppg, 2.4rpg, 2.8apg and 1.8spg.
Kansas State will look to start the month of February off on the right foot, as the Wildcats host Kansas on Saturday at 2 p.m., in the Dillons Sunflower Showdown. K-State has won 21 of the last 24 meetings in the series with the Jayhawks, including 11 straight in Manhattan. The Wildcats will play three of their next four games in Bramlage.
Saturday afternoon’s game will be broadcast on Metro Sports in the Kansas City-area and Cox 22 on the Cox Cable system in the state of Kansas. This will be the 175th K-State women’s basketball game to be broadcast on television. K-State holds an all-time record of 105-69 (.603) in televised games. The game will also be available on the radio through the K-State Sports Network and for free online at kstatesports.com/allaccess. Fans can also follow the free live stats at kstatesports.com and receive updates on Twitter by following @kstate_gameday.
KSU WBB: K-State host KU in Sunflower Showdown
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Prisbell: My problem right now is that I have five Final Four teams. I have loved Arizona since I went out there and talked to them and saw the composition of their team. I think Florida is poised for a very deep run, very deep. I think Jeff Withey gives Kansas an X-factor, and I know they are hell-bent on erasing the memory of losing last year's final. I think Gonzaga is better positioned to finally bust through that glass ceiling. And I am hesitant to break up with everyone's preseason crush, Indiana, just yet. Won't do it. As for the Big Ten in the Final Four, the over-under is 1.5 in my mind. I'm actually looking at the Elite Eight. Can the Big Ten get three teams into the Elite Eight? I think it will. I would be shocked if there's not two Big Ten teams in the Elite Eight. It is the nation's best league, and by a large margin.
USA Today Mailbag
Illinois could have used an upset.
Saying they almost had one is subjective.
The Illini, who have lost five of their last six and 7 of 10, made it a one-possession game against No. 13 Michigan State in the final minute. But the Spartans were in cruise control and rolled to an 80-75 victory to remain undefeated at the Breslin Center this season.
Big 12 Composite Schedule & Results
RPI and SOS Team Comparison Calculator
Since this is your first year back at Kansas how many guys are you recruiting right now and will that number increase for the 2014 recruiting class?
I would say that for 2013 I am involved with four or five guys. For 2014 I am probably involved with about 20 guys that we like a lot. A lot of it depends on how many scholarships we have. Joe and Kurtis are also involved with about 15-20 guys. What we will do is we will break that down more as it goes on.
jayhawkslant.com: Recruiting Talk with Norm Roberts
Isaiah Briscoe doesn’t mind admitting that he enjoys the typical spoils that come with being one of the top high school basketball players in the country, from red carpet visits to a constant barrage of texts and phone calls from coaches who find new ways to tell Briscoe how badly they need him.
“Who wouldn’t like that?” said Briscoe, a sophomore combo guard at St. Benedict’s Prep (Newark, N.J.).
While the VIP treatment is certainly welcomed, Briscoe said it will have little bearing on his ultimate decision.
The biggest factor?
“Watching games on TV,” Briscoe said. “It tells you everything that you need to know. Coaches always talk about how they’ll use you and the freedom they’ll give you, but then you watch and sometimes you don’t see that. That’s why it’s so important to watch games.”
Tyus Jones agreed.
As the No. 1 player in the 2014 class, Jones, a point guard at Apple Valley (Apple Valley, Minn.), hears recruiting pitches from coaches regularly, but said he intently watches his particular position during visits and on TV to see everything from how the coach interacts with his floor general to what plays they run in what situations.
“I am constantly watching,” Jones said. “When I was at Kentucky a few weeks back I was definitely watching Ryan (Harrow) closely. I see things that most people wouldn’t catch. I have to. I want to make the best decision possible, so I’m pretty serious about it.”
…Julius Randle and his mother, Carolyn Kyles, certainly do.
Randle, a senior forward at Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas) who was named to the preseason American Family Insurance ALL-USA Team and ranked No. 2 in the Rivals150, said that he watches for the same reasons as Jones.
Kyles watches for another reason.
“Sometimes, in this recruiting process, coaches say negative things about other schools and the way they run their system,” Kyles said. “I never comment when they do, I just listen. Then I watch for myself. Sometimes they’re right, but a lot of times they’re not.”
What’s up everybody! I’m back from my big visit to N.C. State, and I can definitely say that I had a great time down there with the Wolfpack.
My man Coach (Orlando) Early picked me up from the airport late Thursday night and me and my mom just went back to the hotel and got some sleep.
That next morning they came and picked us up and we were hanging out and I saw someone had tweeted me a picture of this big wall painting they did on me. It was crazy so I told my boy Rod (Purvis) that he had to take me there to see that. We went over there and I took a picture beside it. I had to. That’s definitely the craziest thing a fan has ever done for me. I loved it.
After that, I went and met with the athletics director (Debbie Yow) and she was real cool. I liked her. Then we went and watched the practice and after that I went with Rodney to some pizza place. There were a lot of students there, so that was cool to get the chance to interact with them. They were saying stuff like I had to come to N.C. State and they were making deals with me, like, if State beat UNC the next day, then I’d have to commit on the spot. They were all real cool.
…That next morning Coach Early came by and picked me up and took me over to see College GameDay.
When I walked in the whole student section went just crazy. I mean, it was really loud. I’m not the kind of guy that cares too much for attention, so I was really caught off guard by it. It was the loudest chant I’ve ever heard. The chant during the game wasn’t too loud because I think the fans were worn out from the chant from earlier.
…We went and had lunch after that and of course the coaches gave my mom some red velvet cake. Every coach knows that’s her favorite, so I thought it was cool that they had a different red velvet cake every day that she was there.
…I think the biggest thing I learned over the weekend was that if I came there they wouldn’t have to change anything about their system for me. It just fits me. Other coaches talk about what they’ll change for me, but with State they don’t have to do that. That’s big.
All in all, I’d have to say that this was my best visit so far. I had a ball at Kentucky, and yeah they had Drake and everything, but this visit just had a lot more going on.
State definitely set the bar high on the visits.
My next two visits are to Texas and Kansas, so I’m really looking forward to those. Kansas will have College GameDay there too, so I know that will be crazy.
USA Today Julius Randle blog
Which players from that top 11 -- Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Aaron Gordon, Noah Vonleh, Kasey Hill, James Young, Chris Walker and Dakari Johnson -- are most likely to be busts? We polled 20 coaches and scouts to get their take. Here are the top three vote-getters:
Kansas University freshman Ben McLemore isn’t the only member of his family playing winning basketball during the 2012-13 season.
Kevin McLemore, a 6-foot, 159-pound senior from St. Louis Normandy High, averages 13.1 points a game off 59.6 percent shooting (9-20 from three) for the 14-7 Vikings. He’s also grabbed 3.5 rebounds, dished 2.6 assists and plucked 2.6 steals per contest.
“The season is going great. We’re doing really well,” Kevin McLemore said Thursday in a phone interview with the Journal-World, noting Ben is the best big brother.
“He tells me to work hard to get better and focus on my books,” added Kevin, who will likely attend a junior college or prep school next year as he tries to fulfill a dream of playing Div. I basketball. “I’d love to go there,” Kevin said of Kansas. “I’ve been there and my brother has shown me around. I like all the guys on the team, Elijah (Johnson), Jamari (Traylor), all of them. You have to work as hard as you can. Academically, now it’s best for me to go to a juco.”
My 2012 KU Alumni games, 2011-12 Border War, Legends of the Phog, KC Prep Invitational, & Jayhawk Invitational Videos, Late Night in the Phog, and more now on YouTube