LJW Live blog from New York and the NBA Draft
Today, live at 12:30 p.m., on PD Sports Insider, join cleveland.com's Glenn Moore, The Plain Dealer's Bud Shaw and Dennis Manoloff as they talk about the NBA Draft and potential No. 1 pick Ben McLemore with Kansas assistant basketball coach Kurtis Townsend.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
McLemore has pride, too. You can see it when he's at home. You can hear it when he's around his friends and family. You can tell from his agent choice, Rodney Blackstock, who has been a lightning rod of discussion, that McLemore is sticking true to his relationships. McLemore has taken the side of Blackstock, not his former AAU coach Darius Cobb, who told USA Today that Blackstock had paid him two cash payments of $5,000 each to direct McLemore to Blackstock.
So instead of a more traditional agent-player route, in which the player spends time in a workout gym and then goes to visit teams, McLemore's early draft process was a bit jumbled. But two weeks ago, an attorney who is familiar with NBA players and has worked with them in the past, Rudy Freeman of Los Angeles, was hired by McLemore's advisors to straighten out his draft process.
Freeman ended up organizing the final few workouts and getting McLemore where he needed to go in advance of the draft this week.
"We made it clear to the league that Rodney wasn't flying blind here," said Freeman of Blackstock, who is also embroiled in a controversy regarding whether he provided any extra benefits to North Carolina's P.J. Hairston. Freeman has nothing to do with Hairston, he said.
"I represent Ben," said Freeman. "I'm helping him with this process. He has shown great maturity. He is maintaining counselors and advisors to help him through this. Ben is making the decisions that will suit his life. I have every confidence he has the maturity and those around him will give him the best advice so that nothing jeopardizes his hard work. He has no intention of going backwards."
…McLemore is also about unity. He convinced his mother to have his estranged father, Ben, at the draft, since he had rekindled the relationship.
"It was hard to tell my mom [Sonya Reid] that I wanted my dad to come to the draft," said McLemore. "But she texted me back and said that this was 'your day.' I feel like the only missing piece is not having my older brother there.
"When I walk across that stage, I know I've made it and I can provide for my family. It's a blessing. It's an opportunity and I've put a lot of thought into it."
McLemore said the odds weren't high for someone like him to get out of Wellston. It would be easy to forget his roots but he said he won't.
"I'm never going to forget Wellston," said McLemore. "It's where I grew up. It's my heart and my pride. The people are great here. I'm going to give back. I was born and raised here. I'm a humble person. The community knows that. I want to build it back to how it was and be a happier place than it was."
Whitfield believes in him.
"He said it two years ago [when he went to Kansas]," said Whitfield. "I believe him, but he's got to do it. 'Cause he's a humble person, he's the humblest basketball player I've ever seen in Wellston. I believe him, and I'm going to be on him to do it too. He don't owe us, but please come back and pick one up at a time."
ESPN: From poverty to pros: Ben McLemore
On the eve of the NBA draft, former Kansas star Ben McLemore said one of the best pieces of advice he's been given is to keep his circle of family, friends and advisors small.
That led him to sign with newly certified agent Rodney Blackstock for representation after earlier working with Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Rival Sports Group.
"I was with Rivals and I just fell like Rodney has been the best person for me throughout this process, helping me get through everything," McLemore said Wednesday. "From the beginning, everything has been good. He's a great person, and he's helped me through all of this so that's why I chose that he should be a part of my circle."
Blackstock declined comment when approached by USA TODAY Sports.
…McLemore declined to discuss whether he had talked to anyone at Kansas and the NCAA about the matter.
"I just left that as it is," he said. "Rodney is now my agent, so I'm leaving it at that. I'm just going to keep moving forward … and getting ready for my future."
McLemore said he's "definitely" still in contact with the Kansas coaching staff, and that he expects Kansas coach Bill Self to sit at his table at the draft, along with Blackstock, McLemore's mother, sister and younger brother.
If you thought LeBron James was in the zone during Game 7 of the NBA Finals, Ben McLemore says he wasn’t far behind.
McLemore, while rooting for LeBron and the Heat, said he had a pretty good performance of his own.
First of all, he predicted Miami would win. And then he kept making predictions once the game began.
“I was calling a lot of plays before they happened,” McLemore said. “I called ‘miracle shot.’ When Mario Chalmers hit that shot before the fourth quarter, I called that shot.”
If NBA evaluators are convinced McLemore sees the floor that well – many question whether he seizes enough opportunities to be aggressive – he’ll get picked near the high end of his projected range during (the) NBA Draft.
The Kansas guard said he deserves to be in contention for the No. 1 pick. Asked whether he believes there’s still a chance the Cavaliers will pick him there, McLemore gave a one-word answer.
“Yes,” he said.
The Cavs have the No. 1 pick in the draft again. Nerlens Noel, Otto Porter, Alex Len, Anthony Bennett, Victor Oladipo and Ben McLemore are all still options.
The Cavs desperately need an upgrade over Alonzo Gee at small forward. They also need an upgrade over Tyler Zeller inside. But simply filling a need shouldn't be the goal with the top pick.
The goal should be to leave the draft with the best player in the draft, the one that will end up being the best long-term.
That player is Ben McLemore.
McLemore has been blessed with immense talent. He showed it in his one season at Kansas. Even though he was just a freshman, McLemore led the Jayhawks in scoring with 15.9 points per game (third in the Big 12) despite taking fewer than 11 shots a contest. That's incredible efficiency. The First Team All-Big 12 marksman shot just under 50 percent from the field, including 42 percent from three-point range.
McLemore has prototypical size for a two-guard. He has very good athleticism, which helps him finish at the rack. He defends his position well (players shot just 25 percent from the field against him when he was the on-ball defender).
But what sets him apart is his silky-smooth shooting stroke. To be considered for the first overall pick, a player has to have at least one elite skill. For McLemore, it's that shooting ability. He's the best in the class.
Throughout the pre-draft process, you've probably heard a lot about McLemore not being able to dribble the way he needs to. About him not being able to create his own shot. About him deferring to his teammates too much. Those criticisms are fair, but when did being unselfish become a bad thing? When did passing the ball mean being branded with some kind of scarlet letter? When did being unselfish start to translate to lack of killer instinct?
And consider this. McLemore played with a ball-dominating senior guard, Elijah Johnson, who wasn't a true point guard. He didn't make players better. It played a factor.
Not to mention, even though McLemore was the most talented player on his team and people were screaming for him to take over games, he was a 19-year-old kid playing on a team coming off a national title game appearance with four seniors. Dominating the ball would have been unwise.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Although opinions vary, advanced analytical data say the best prospect in this year’s NBA Draft may be former Kansas Jayhawks guard Ben McLemore.
McLemore is efficient on both ends of the court and was extremely valuable to the Jayhawks last season. He led D-I freshmen in win shares -- a metric that estimates the number of wins contributed by a player due to his offense and defense.
On offense, McLemore ranked seventh in points per play among the 220 players with at least 500 plays last season. Seth Curry was the only player invited to the 2013 Draft Combine who ranked higher.
Perhaps more impressive, McLemore’s 1.09 points per play was the highest average by a freshman with at least 500 plays since Michael Beasley and Kevin Love in 2007-08.
McLemore scored in a variety of ways at Kansas. He shot 48 percent on spot-up plays, 57 percent in transition and 60 percent in isolation.
His jump shot is perhaps his best attribute and one reason he's been compared to Ray Allen. McLemore shot 40 percent on jump shots last season, including 43 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers. Both stats ranked in the top 15 percentile last season.
What about performing in clutch time? In the final five minutes of the second half and overtime with the score within five points, McLemore averaged 1.45 points per play, the most among all draft prospects with more than 10 plays, and shot 67 percent from the floor.
He most notably showed off his clutch shot-making ability in a game against Iowa State, when he made a game-tying 3-pointer to send the game into overtime and carried his team to a victory with 33 points on 10-of-12 shooting, including 6-for-6 on 3-point attempts.
As the season developed, it became apparent it wasn’t so much that the Jayhawks weren’t making full use of McLemore, but rather that he declined to assert himself despite coach Bill Self’s constant urging to become a dominant offensive player. Sometimes he did, sometimes he didn’t.
If that’s the biggest problem there is with McLemore, the recent track record with that sort of player is pretty good. Harrison Barnes showed flashes of greatness at North Carolina but mostly declined to dominate; Greg Monroe did the same at Georgetown. They’re now among the biggest success stories from recent drafts.
McLemore is an elite athlete, one of the best in the draft. He is capable of creating his own shot, and he ranks with the best shooters. He is one of the few players in the draft with a legitimate chance to play in the NBA All-Star Game. The Cleveland Cavaliers already have a promising shooting guard prospect in Dion Waiters, so it’s understandable they might look to upgrade in other areas, and the same goes for the Washington Wizards, who last year drafted McLemore’s old AAU teammate, Brad Beal.
But there aren’t a lot of teams that will feel good about passing on McLemore in a few years.
And yet, many people that know McLemore well are still concerned that his most endearing qualities — his innocence and kindness — could cause him to be chewed up by the system.
“I think it’s all within yourself,” said former KU guard Tyshawn Taylor, who spent a year at Kansas with McLemore. “You’ve got to be able to tell people no.”
Like McLemore, Taylor grew up in a rough neighborhood in New Jersey. He was selected last year by the Brooklyn Nets, and those first NBA paychecks delivered a new kind of freedom. But, as Taylor says, they must come with a certain level of awareness.
“You have to be able to have some good people with you that can tell people no,” Taylor said. “But when you’re in a situation where you come from little and you get enough, you want to be able to help as many people as you can.”
SI: NBA team draft needs
In his ten years at the helm of the University of Kansas basketball program, Bill Self has steered the Jayhawks to nine straight conference titles and an NCAA title in 2008. In the 2012-2013 season, Kansas was awarded a 1-seed. Their championship hopes, however, were dashed in the Sweet 16 by the University of Michigan in what was one of the tournament’s most memorable games.
Prior to bowing out to Michigan, Self’s Jayhawks squared off against the North Carolina Tar Heels. Kansas prevailed 70-58, despite a horrific first half. Frustrated with his team’s early struggles, Self slammed his left fist against the scorer’s table, which caused some structural damage. And today Self was publicly reprimanded and fined by the NCAA for his actions.
Also today, he joined Dave Telep on David Glenn’s afternoon radio show to discuss—among a variety of other basketball topics—what caused him to strike the table, and how he felt about the NCAA’s decision (bear in mind that Telep and Self are friends, so while the conversation is light-hearted, we have no doubt Self takes the penalty seriously):
”It was from a squatted position, left hand. I think it was our thirteenth turnover, 7-29 from the field in the first half against Carolina. And for whatever reason, I guess I cracked. I backhanded the scorer’s table—and I didn’t hit it hard—but I must have hit it just at an angle where maybe a few of the lights or maybe a panel or two or three became damaged. I’m sure it was a manufacturer error.
So I have been reprimanded for that, and deservedly so—I shouldn’t be letting my emotions getting the best me. The unbelievable thing I’ve done a lot worse, but I guess I caught this one just right.”
Reprimand and fine aside, Self is more than ready for the 2013-2014 season, when he will be able to coach the nation’s top incoming freshmen, Andrew Wiggins. The Kansas coach is also very excited to see where two of his players—Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey—land in tomorrow’s NBA Draft.
To listen to Self’s full interview with Telep, check out the link below:
Kansas coach Bill Self completed his staff for the 2013-14 season on Wednesday, promoting Brennan Bechard into the Jayhawks’ director of basketball operations role and hiring former St. John’s assistant Fred Quartlebaum as the program’s director of student-athlete development.
Quartlebaum has attended one game in Allen Fieldhouse. He was an assistant under Iowa State’s Wayne Morgan in 2003-04 when the Jayhawks needed overtime to beat the Cyclones, 90-89.
“It was an unbelievable environment and great experience. It was one of the remarkable places I’ve ever been in terms of a college basketball game,” said Quartlebaum, who played at Fordham from 1985-89. He’s been an assistant at Fairfield, Holy Cross, Towson and Navy, as well as the schools mentioned by Self.
“I am looking forward to the opportunity. To reunite with coach Roberts, a dear friend of mine who I’ve learned a great deal of basketball on and off the court ... obviously to be part of the historic basketball program of Kansas and work under coach Self’s leadership and direction is definitely a thrill,” Quartlebaum said. “As a basketball coach, you want to learn from different levels. Working with PACT … has really given me a huge confidence boost working with student-athletes in different capacities of their lives.”
Bechard takes over for Doc Sadler, director of operations during the 2012-13 season, who recently was named assistant at Iowa State. At KU, Sadler succeeded current Southern Illinois coach Barry Hinson.
“I couldn’t be happier to be back with the program another year. I’m so thankful to coach Self — how good he’s been to me over the years — giving me this opportunity. It’s exciting,” Bechard said. “I definitely thought I had a chance (when Sadler left for ISU). But coach knows so many people over the years in the business ... so many people have been in high-level coaching. When he did give me the promotion, I was thankful, and I can’t wait.”
Bechard still plans to be an assistant coach, then a head coach someday.
“Growing up a Jayhawk fan and having the unbelievable opportunity to walk on (as player) and be on a national championship team and play with so many great players and work with so many great guys ... it’s been a dream come true over the last seven years,” Bechard, a former Lawrence High guard, said.
With the NBA draft a little more than 24 hours away, trade rumors involving the Cavaliers have begun to heat up. The latest, according to the Houston Chronicle, has Cleveland interested in the Rockets' 6-foot-10 forward Thomas Robinson in exchange for the Cavaliers' No. 19 pick in the draft.
The move would allow Houston to free up salary-cap space to make a run at free agent Dwight Howard.
The Cavaliers did not respond to a request for confirmation.
According to the Chronicle, both the Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls have shown interest in Robinson, who will make $3.5 million next season. The Bulls have the 20th selection in the NBA draft.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Golf took a backseat to the First Lady of the Ball’s Charity Golf Classic at the Classic’s annual pre-tournament luncheon.
JoAnn Ball, who helped found the Classic that over the past 32 years ago has raised nearly $5 million for KVC Health Systems Inc. and other charitable organizations, passed away at age 77 on May 14.
“We are deeply saddened by her passing,” said B. Wayne Sims, KVC President and CEO. “As one of KVC’s ‘Founding Mothers,’ Jo Ann was part of the Junior League that originally recognized the great need of children in our community and helped KVC become the organization it is today. Her kindness, generosity and compassion were remarkable and her dedication to KVC’s children inspired so many in the community to join her in her mission to make a difference.”
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self concurred.
“I’ve seen how so many have been affected in such a positive way,” said Self, a KVC board member. “The sacrifices of the Ball Family have been remarkable. This is a sad time but a great time. The mission JoAnn had, it is important to continue for a long, long time.”
…Boasting one of the top recruiting classes in the nation, Self said the Jayhawks will likely go nine deep this fall – four “bigs” and five perimeter players. “We’re so big inside, we’ll tell our guys to foul although on the perimeter it will be a little different.”
Is there a risk of having too many good players and not giving them enough playing time? “I think that’s always the case but it still comes down to competition,” said Self. ”I’ve always found that most players want to go where they have the best chance of winning. But then it’s not my job to make them happy; it’s their job to make me happy.”
As for the No. 1 recruit in the nation, Andrew Wiggins, Self said: “He’s a terrific talent but it’s not fair to compare him to others. He’s just 18 years old. He’s good, there’s no question about that. But he’s a very humble person who would just like to be just a kid.”
Self expects all five of his starters from this past year to play professionally.
The NBA draft is Thursday and Self said Ben McLemore could go No. 1 and 7-foot Jeff Withey late in the first round or early in the second.
“I don’t know about Travis (Releford). Everyone wants to be drafted but I’m not sure that would be best because then you’re committed to one team. If you’re not drafted, then you can pick and choose. But he could be drafted. He’s such a stud.”
Elijah Johnson and Kevin Young both could be headed overseas, especially Young because he would not count against a limit of American players per team.
Big 12/College News
Those accomplishments, along with averaging 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds as a senior, provided him a solid foundation as he began preparing for his professional career. It wasn’t enough to assure him selection in the NBA Draft, which begins at 6 p.m. on Thursday, but it was definitely something he could build on.
That’s what the past few months have been about – reminding NBA coaches of his successful past while also proving there is more to his game than what he showed at K-State. Basically, McGruder has tried to add an improved outside shot and better ball-handling skills to a resume that already featured strong defense and leadership qualities.
After months of practice, and workouts with seven NBA teams, McGruder is optimistic about his NBA chances, even though most experts expect him to go undrafted.
"I feel like I have put myself in position to be a draft pick," McGruder said. "I have been getting positive feedback from teams, but it is really a waiting game. You just don’t know what is going to happen. I feel like I put the work in, so I feel like the opportunity should be there for me."
Oregon is the perfect example of this putrid trend, with a court so distracting I can barely stand to watch a game televised from Matthew Knight Arena, even though the Ducks are a terrific team who play the game as it should be played. The stenciling of trees that borders the Oregon court make it virtually impossible to concentrate on the game.
You want to put your school’s logo or mascot—or, for state universities, an outline of the state itself—at center court, that’s fine.
I’ll ask this, however: What’s on the middle of the court at Duke? At Kentucky? At Louisville? Can anyone picture it? We don’t talk about how their floors are designed. We talk about their teams, and perhaps how imposing their homecourt advantages might be on account of overwhelming fan support. I can tell you this for certain: No one leaves Allen Fieldhouse talking about how cool the court design is. But they remember they were there.
2013-14 Early-season events schedule