KANSAS CITY, Mo. — He could rewrite the mighty stone tablets that are the Kansas record book, handed down on high from James Naismith, for years to come, if he wanted to. Ben McLemore probably has other plans, and that’s fine. Not the issue.
The issue is the present, or rather — oh, heck, let’s just say it — Bracketville.
Namely: Which Ben are we going to get once the ball is tipped at the NCAA Tourney?
Big Ben? Saturday Ben? The one who sank 12 of 15 shots in a 91-65 beatdown of West Virginia? The one who netted 36 points on the day, the most ever in a single game by a Jayhawk freshman? The one who shattered the mark held by (gasp) Danny Manning, one of the four faces on KU’s Mount Rushmore?
Or will it be Gentle Ben? The one who scored only seven points on Iowa State in Ames? The one who managed another seven points at Oklahoma State? The one who tends to disappear every time the vultures start circling?
According to Sports-Reference.com, coming into the weekend, McLemore had made 50.6 percent of his shots at home while draining a remarkable 46.2 percent of his treys. At Allen Fieldhouse, he was averaging 18.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.7 turnovers per contest.
And yet, in 13 road/neutral games, Superman keeps getting his cape stepped on. Away from The Phog, McLemore was making 47.6 percent of his shots and draining 35.6 percent of his treys while averaging 13.3 points, 4.6 boards and 2.3 turnovers.
Take away the “neutral” part of the equation, and in nine true road games, Benny Mac’s shooting 43.5 percent from the floor, 28.1 percent from beyond the arc, and averaging 12.9 points a tilt.
So which one will it be?
The one who defies gravity? Or the one who defies logic?
Let’s put it this way: Down three with two seconds left in Arlington, Texas, is McLemore the one you want with the ball in his hands?
Do miracles make road trips?
Hey, pal, what’s the big deal, you say. Lighten up, Francis. Dude’s a redshirt freshman. Freshmen are notorious for being consistently — well, inconsistent. Isn’t this nitpicking for a team that’s won six straight, just moved to 25-4, and seems to be gathering speed as the tourneys approach?
Well, yeah. Maybe. Except for this: In Kansas victories, McLemore connects on 46.8 percent on treys and turns it over just 1.84 times a game. In four Jayhawk losses, it’s 27.8 percent and 3.0 giveaways, on average. Gentle Ben doesn’t come around often, but when he does, KU becomes the heavyweight with a glass jaw.
Although that hasn’t scared off too many scouts, either: NBADraft.net projects the St. Louis native to be the first player taken, to woeful Charlotte, in this spring’s draft. According to a database kept by the site WalterFootball.com, out of 19 mock drafts updated since February 13, the Jayhawk star was expected to go No. 1 in 12 of them. Of the other seven, McLemore was listed as No. 2 in three, No. 3 in two, No. 4 in two others.
So, basically, enjoy him while you can. That the wing man will declare for the pros has been a foregone conclusion for months, but one made clearer by a USA Today story a few days ago in which he revealed that his mother is presently out of work and his older brother and mentor, Keith Scott, is serving time in a Missouri prison. McLemore has a family to take care of, and if basketball is his means to that end, more power to him. It was fun while it lasted.
Fun and a little unpredictable. Seven games of 22 points or more. Five games of 10 points or less. Thirteen points at Morgantown. Eleven in Manhattan. Ten in Lubbock.
To Kansas faithful, Ben McLemore is the ultimate box of chocolates: So darned smooth, so blasted sweet. And yet, more often than not, you never quite know what you’re going to get.