McLemore's flights help KU ground Belmont

Ben McLemore's hops were on full display as Kansas cruised past Belmont.

LAWRENCE, Kan.Click. Oh, man. Man, oh man, oh man.

Click. Holy schnikes!

Click. Wow.

Click. Did you see that?

Except for the whole defying-Newton's-law-of-gravity part, he's human. Like the rest of us, Ben McLemore gets a kick out of watching Ben McLemore dunks on YouTube, too.

"I've got a couple of favorites," the Kansas redshirt freshman guard said after the Jayhawks chewed up Belmont in an 89-60 rout. "I can say I've got actually two favorites. The one from Oregon State — that was a great one. That was one of the best ones.

"Then I think against (San Jose State), when I did the windmill, that one was a great one. I was actually preparing that dunk and telling all my teammates that, ‘If I could just fast break, I'm going to do a windmill.' And that's what I did. I got the fast break, and I got the windmill, and it was crazy."

McLemore smiled at the crazy for the second. Then he nodded over to a spot over on the Allen Fieldhouse floor.

"I always go back and look at that dunk, just to see: ‘How far did I jump out from the box?'" McLemore continued. "It was about from maybe before that second hash mark, so it was pretty far."

While on the subject of far, the last time McLemore, a wiry 6-foot-5, had his vertical leap measured, he said the number checked in at around 40 inches, give or take. That's LeBron James territory, Shawn Kemp territory, Julius Erving territory, the rarest of air.

"Pretty high," said McLemore, who netted 17 points against the Bruins and leads the 8-1 Jayhawks in scoring at 16.1 per game. "But I think it could get higher."

He's serious, too. Nine games into his first collegiate season, McLemore's dunks — especially the beaut against the Beavers on Nov. 30 — are already becoming the stuff of legend in Lawrence, which is saying something, considering the history at this place. The locals got two more to chew on Saturday night, both coming late in the first half against Belmont, a plucky little bunch from Nashville, an NCAA tourney perennial that already had a win against Stanford under its belt.

The first flight came with about 2:36 left in the half, a one-hander off the break with more hang-time than a Ray Guy punt. The second was shorter, more violent and compact, the receiving end of an alley-oop from point guard Elijah Johnson as time expired.

The latter also offered up a bit of the surreal, as No. 23 was fouled as he floated back to Earth. While the officials checked the monitor to affirm that it happened before the end of the half, Belmont cleared its bench and hightailed it back to the visitors' locker room. Half the Kansas cadre was in the tunnel, too, waiting to see if McLemore would be called back. He was, and, before an otherwise empty court, sunk the free throw that gave the hosts a 44-28 halftime lead.

"Pshew," Bruins coach Rick Byrd exclaimed when asked about McLemore, who also drained four 3-pointers, grabbed five rebounds and dished out three assists. "If he can rise up and shoot it like that, he's just going to be a bear for anybody to guard. That was impressive. And he was shooting, what, 31 percent from 3?

"Our thought was to approach him under control, get a hand up, and if he makes shots, they were going to beat us. He's the real deal, for sure."

The scary part: the real deal, by McLemore's own admission, hasn't even figured this game out yet.

The kid's learning as he goes, especially on defense, with stretches that seem as if he's thinking first and reacting second. That’ll come. In time, that'll come.

"For me, sitting out last year (because of academics), I think, was definitely a blessing," McLemore said. "I think it was just, for me, a learning experience ... I'm definitely learning more (this) year, and I'm still learning. I mean, it's just a blessing to be able to play the game of basketball.

"Just having fun out there. That's basically what I'm doing. Just out there, having fun."

It shows. The St. Louis native is relishing center stage, the hype and the love, always quick with a laugh, the sort of happy that becomes infectious after a while.

Winning is a whole mess of fun, and the Jayhawks, winners of seven in a row, are playing right now like it's a party. When a reporter asked senior swingman Travis Releford if his wicked second-half reverse dunk off the break was a case of out-McLemoring McLemore, he almost blushed at the thought.

"I wouldn't say that," Releford replied. "That wasn't one of my better dunks. I don't think I got off as high as I could. I'd rather see him do a breakaway dunk than me."

McLemore, sitting to Releford's left, grinned.

"Appreciate it," the freshman said, quietly.

See? Just out there, having fun.

"I like LeBron James dunks, definitely," McLemore said, smiling at the crazy again. "When I get another fast break, I'm definitely going to do one of his dunks. So be prepared to be watching that."


You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at

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