(AP) — After having to sit out last season, Kansas’ Ben McLemore is quickly living up to his potential. Coach Bill Self, though, expects his freshman guard to reach another level.
McLemore leads the ninth-ranked Jayhawks against visiting Belmont on Saturday night.
McLemore signed with Kansas in April 2011 but academic issues forced him to delay his collegiate debut. Having gotten past those, the guard is quickly finding his groove for the Jayhawks (7-1), having topped 20 points in consecutive games for the first time.
He had 24 in a 90-54 rout of Colorado last Saturday and boosted his team-leading average to 16.0, but Self thinks the best is yet to come.
“He still hasn’t played yet like he can play. Wait until he gets comfortable. That’s kind of how I look at it,” Self said. “He’s one of the premier players in our league with a chance to be one of the very elite few in our league. I really believe that.”
McLemore will next to try to help the Jayhawks get past a potentially pesky foe. Belmont (7-2) has made the NCAA tournament in five of the last seven seasons and is off to a strong start behind its top returning scorers, Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson.
“This is a good RPI game, without question,” Self said. “I know they (Belmont) got a good team. They’ve got a great coach (Rick Byrd). He’s won (552) games at Belmont. That’s a lot of games in 27 years and he can really coach.”
Clark and Johnson led the way in a 64-49 victory over Middle Tennessee on Thursday. Johnson paced Belmont with 17 points while Clark, averaging a team-best 18.9, had 15.
The duo will try to help end the Bruins’ 15-game losing streak against Top 25 opponents. Belmont last beat a ranked team Dec. 30, 2003, a 71-67 victory at then-No. 23 Missouri.
Ending that streak Saturday should prove very difficult as Kansas has won 26 in a row at Allen Fieldhouse and 59 straight against non-conference visitors.
In their only matchup with Belmont, the then-No. 1 Jayhawks won 81-51 in Lawrence on Dec. 29, 2009. Clark tied for the team lead with 11 points while current Kansas senior Jeff Withey had two points and two rebounds in his college debut.
Withey is averaging 13.8 points, a team-leading 8.0 rebounds and an NCAA-best 5.6 blocks.
Kansas won’t have Justin Wesley available for this meeting, as the junior guard is expected miss around three weeks with a broken left pinkie.