NCAAB

Pressey or McLemore

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As conference play is starting for the Big 12 and SEC, I am asked which player is better Phil Pressey or Ben McLemore. At first thought I would say Pressey is more important because of how efficient he has made Missouri’s offense. Pressey appears to be painting a new mosaic everyday with his beautiful passes and effective layups. Without Pressey, Missouri’s offense looks like a chicken with its head cut off. There is no smooth flow to the offense. Pressey’s second best trait behind his vision and passing ability is his quickness. Everyone knows about these skills but people often forget about him as a threat from beyond the arc.

Ben McLemore

With Ben McLemore,  Bill Self and the Jayhawks are getting a true scorer. He shoots the way Bradly Beal was predicted to shoot at Florida last year. Both players were Saint Louis natives. When coming out of high school Beal was the pick by everyone but Bill Self saw something special in McLemore. After redshirting his freshman year, McLemore has been able to showcase his talents every game. If I had my choice today I (KC’s biggest Gators fan) would take Ben McLemore over Bradley Beal. McLemore shoots the three ball with such poise and consistency. His stroke is as smooth as a babies bottom. McLemore is much better on perimeter defense then most expected.

It is hard to choose between these two stars but because he is younger I would lean towards Ben McLemore. If it were for one season and I could build my team around a player, I would choose Phil Pressey. You let me know who is the best player.

Phil Pressey

Spencer Montgomery

Rock Chalk Success

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At the beginning of the season, the Kansas Jayhawks were a team not a lot of people thought could have as much success as they have had.  After a loss in the third game of the season to Michigan State, this season seemed like it would be a drag.  The team seems to have turned it around, though of late.  Stats are on the rise, as are the Jayhawks.  With a new poll coming out tomorrow, Kansas is expected to be the sixth best team in the country after winning in their first true away game at Ohio State.  Yesterday’s game in Columbus showed a lot about Coach Bill Self’s team, and the team played like they could go to Atlanta in April for the Final 4.

Going into Columbus, almost every scout and analyst projected an easy win for the Ohio State Buckeyes.  At home versus a young team in a revenge game?  There was no way the Buckeyes would fall once again to the Jayhawks.  Unfortunately for Ohio State, that was not the case.  Ben McLemore led the team to a solid 74 to 66 win in Ohio.  However, the score does not describe the beat down the Jayhawks put on Ohio State.  Kansas shot 51 percent from the field, and held Ohio State to just over 30 percent.  Once again, the Jayhawks shot lights out from three point range, dropping 46 percent of their threes compared to the Buckeyes 26 percent on 31 attempted three pointers.  Kansas out-rebounded Ohio State 41 to 37.  The only low point for KU yesterday was turnovers.  19 turnovers is way too many for this team.  On the bright side, giving up 19 turnovers but still winning on the road proves that Kansas does not have a hard time overcoming the negatives. The turnover ratio will have to change if they want to be a lock for the Final 4.

Bill Self

Who is to thank for the success of Kansas?  Jeff Withey is second in the country in blocks, averaging 5 a game.  His size and inside presence in the post makes him a nightmare to any team the Jayhawks face.  He is an experienced senior who knows how to play the game at a level that few people in college do.  There is also Ben McLemore.  This is a freshman whose play has made him a potential All-American.  The guy is on crash course to success.  He averages almost 17 points a game.  He grabs almost seven boards a game and dishes out over two assists per game.  Some people are probably saying, “Yeah.  So what?  Those aren’t outstanding.”  First of all, he is a redshirt freshman.  No other freshman has figures like those.  Shabazz Muhammad was hyped to be the best player in the country, but now he plays on a struggling team and he is struggling as well.  Nerlens Noel of Kentucky is not putting up stats like McLemore is, and he was the top ranked freshman coming in to this year.  Ben’s dynamic dunks and clutch threes make him both the leader and X-Factor of this Jayhawk team.  However, no credit should go to just one player.  The Kansas Jayhawks’ reason for success this year is because of Bill Self.  The man is simply a winner.  He did it last year with a Jayhawk team that was dubbed as “The Least Talented Team to Come Through Kansas in However Many Years.”  Jayhawk fans should never feel discouraged because as long as Bill Self is there, Kansas will be a winning program.

After the Ohio State game, this season could be a great year for the Jayhawks.  With an easy schedule the rest of the way, and virtually no one in the Big XII who can beat them, KU has absolutely no reason to not be a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.  This year would be a failure if they were not a three seed or better.  Between now and April, anything can happen, and only Kansas can control their own destiny.  After 11 games, Kansas has established themselves as a dynamic team who can win ball games at ease.

Drew Agnello

The Freshman B.M.O.C. Part II

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If it was unknown before, I’ll say it now- I am a big fan of the Kansas freshman sensation Ben McLemore.  I believe he is a player with special talents that no other freshman in the NCAA has.  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article on Ben being “The Freshman B.M.O.C.”.  I admire McLemore for what he has accomplished this season.  Despite only playing in eleven games, Ben has been raising eyebrows across the country with his play, especially after a big win at Ohio State.  As I was doing my daily routine of reading blogs about the Kansas guard, one caught my eye.  It was an article from rockchalktalk.com comparing Ben McLemore to Miami Heat star Dwayne Wade. Right now, one is an NBA All Star and the other is a redshirt freshman in college.  However, as freshmen, their stats nearly mirror one another’s.  Ben could very well be a player like Dwayne Wade was at Marquette, and here is why.

Ben McLemore...
I compared McLemore and Wade in points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, their floor percentage, and three point field goal percentage.  In 32 games played as a freshman, Dwayne Wade scored 17.8 points per game.  Through 11 games, McLemore is averaging 16.5 points per game.  In rebounds, Wade edges out McLemore with 6.6 boards compared to Ben’s 5.7.  Dwayne is also beating Ben in assists with 3.4 compared to 2.3.  Ben has a barely better field goal percentage with 48.8 and Wade with 48.7.  However, Ben’s three point percentage is much better than Dwayne Wade’s.  McLemore has hit 40.8 percent of his threes this year, but Wade only knocked down 34.6 percent.  Currently, Ben’s floor percentage is 54.1.  Wade’s was 54.4 as a freshman.  Floor percentage is the chances of a team scoring when the ball is in a certain player’s hands.  It is a very important stat that often goes unnoticed.  In other stats, Ben McLemore is much better right now than Dwayne Wade was.  McLemore shoots 85 percent at the free throw line, but Wade only shot 69 percent.  Overall, Ben’s offensive rating is 119.1.  Wade’s was 108.3.  If none of these numbers make sense, here is a graph comparing the two.

The blog I read acknowledged the odds of Ben McLemore becoming the next Dwayne Wade— a two-time NBA Championship winner, Gold Medal winner, etc.  Those are some big accomplishments that McLemore is being called “destined to be”.  The odds of any player having this sort of status are slim to none.  But would it be unfair to say McLemore has better chances than others?  His stats would say differently.

Drew Agnello

The Freshman B.M.O.C.

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For Jayhawk fans, it is hard to find positives after losing in the National Championship.  Kansas had a remarkable run to the NCAA Championship last April, somewhere no one thought they would be.  The team prevailed in tight games throughout the tournament, but their run ended against Kentucky.  The heart of the Kansas basketball team, Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson left for the NBA.  Gloom seemed to rein over Lawrence, but a freshman sensation emerged.  Ben McLemore was suspended all of last season for eligibility reasons and was forced to watch his team from the bench.  But now, McLemore is leading the Kansas Jayhawks to a hot start on the season.  Ben’s absence last year has helped him mature as a basketball player and has made him a dangerous threat this season.

McLemore has taken the reins of this team.  At the beginning of the season, it was unknown who would be the leader of this Kansas team.  Jeff Withey is the threshold as the only true center, and he has tacked on 40 blocks already this season.  However, Ben is making the most noise.  He is not running his mouth with arrogance, but Ben is performing at a level like no other freshman.  UCLA freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad was the talk of the freshmen coming into the season.  His team has three losses in just eight games.  Kentucky’s star freshman Nerlens Noel and the Wildcats are already unranked.  Ben McLemore’s play has made the Kansas Jayhawks the ninth ranked team in the country.

Ben McLemore

Although he could not play in games, McLemore was still able to practice with the team last season.  He learned the offense and defense, which gave him a serious advantage over other freshmen.  Ben became comfortable with the team which has turned out to be key for the Jayhawks.  The biggest factor McLemore brings is the fact that teams are familiar with his style of play.  Teams throughout the country did not see him play last year, making him a  well-kept secret.  The high-power skillset McLemore brings to the table makes him an elite all-around player.

Ben McLemore’s contribution on both sides of the floor has made him the leader of this team.  On the offensive side, McLemore averages almost 15 points a game and dishes over two assists.  Defensively, he averages close to six rebounds per game.  Ben McLemore is not huge, though.  Most people would expect a 6’5” freshman with a 195 pound frame to not be nearly as active as McLemore has been.  However, he has a leaping ability like no other.  His awareness and timing for put-back dunks is simply jaw-dropping.  When McLemore is running full speed at the rim, the only thing that can stop him is the path of the ball.  Ben’s posterizing dunks have made him a fan favorite.  Here is an example of what Ben McLemore is able to do.

Not only is his jersey number 23, but Ben McLemore flies through the air very similarly to Michael Jordan.  His skills are not nearly there, but he is certainly on course to be a remembered player.  Ben’s humbleness shapes his already great character.  After games he will give high fives, sign autographs and pose for pictures.  All Jayhawks need to be appreciative of Ben McLemore.  Coach Bill Self has taught a numerous amount of great freshman.  From Deron Williams to Mario Chalmers, Bill Self has coached some of the most talented players in the NBA today.  Out of all those freshman, Self says Ben McLemore is the most talented freshman he has ever coached.  Although it is evident that a player with talent like his would leave early for the NBA Draft, the decision still lies in his hands.  In the meantime, everyone can sit back and watch the freshman lead Kansas this season.

Drew Agnello

Loss of a Legend

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This weekend, Saint Louis University and the college basketball community were devastated with the news of legendary basketball coach Rick Majerus’ passing. Majerus, who had dedicated his life to the development of young men on and off the court for over a quarter of a century, is now gone forever at the age of 64. The legacy that Majerus has left behind, however, will live on. Heralded as one of the greatest minds in modern basketball, Majerus became known as a maestro in conducting the action on the court. His ability to have a direct effect on the game at hand was second to none.

Perhaps more important than his ability to influence the game on the court, was his ability to influence his players off of it. Majerus often stressed the value of an education, knowing well the impact that it can have on a person’s life. In an interview in November of 2000, Majerus had this to say regarding his role as a coach:

“I like practice, I love teaching, I love to see a kid get a degree and an education. I enjoy the college campus. I love the theater in our campus. I like the campus life. There’s a travel club on our campus, and I’ll go to those lectures. In an NBA player’s life, how can you make a difference? I mean, you might be able to make a little bit of a difference, but I think I’ve impacted all my players more than any pro coach they’ve ever played for — both from a basketball standpoint, but more importantly, from a lifestyle standpoint.”

There certainly aren’t enough words to give enough credit to I the incredible life and career of Majerus. As a coach, Majerus went to 12 NCAA tournaments in 25 seasons and finished with a career winning percentage of .705. In 1998, he led Utah to its second national title game in school history. He coached six academic All-Americans during his career and coached 3 players that would go on to play in the NBA.

SLU MarjerasMajerus was able to breath life back into the Billiken basketball program, going 95-69 over his five-year tenure as head coach and leading the team to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2000 and first tournament victory since 1998. He was beloved by the students at SLU for his colorful and, at times, irreverent personality. When introduced as their new head by SLU president Fr. Lawrence Biondi at a press conference, Biondi gave his own interpretation of Majerus’ name and it’s origin, citing the Latin word Magnus, meaning “greatness”. In typical Majerus fashion, he quickly responded, “The name is really from Luxembourg. I think it means sausage eater.” He continued his commitment to the true standard of the student athlete, having 8 of his players earn Academic All-Conference in the Atlantic 10, the most by any Atlantic 10 program during that time.

To say Majerus left his mark on Saint Louis University during his time there would be an understatement. He not only breathed life back into the basketball program, but into the school as a whole. There was a buzz and an energy on campus that had been previously absent. He will be missed by the entire Saint Louis community.

Often times Majerus’ insightful and emotional nature gets overlooked by his gruff and irreverent public persona. In his postgame press conference following the 3rd round loss to Michigan State, Majerus made his passion and love for his Billikens squad very apparent: http://www.ncaa.com/video#!basketball-men/2012-03-18/mbb-305-saint-louis-post.

In a sit down with Bernie Miklasz in late August of this year, after Majerus had announced he would be taking a leave of absence from the team due to health concerns, he reflected on his own mortality, an issue becoming seemingly more prevalent by the day.

“You examine your life, your values, your failures, the things that make you proud. You think about the people you’ve helped, and the people you’ve let down. And then you rethink it all over again”, said Majerus.

“You assess your own life. And it makes you realize how much you want to live. And how much there is to live for.

I realize that I cannot completely do coach Majerus justice through this piece, but as a fan, a student, and a devout basketball enthusiast, I wanted to pay my own homage to this fantastic coach and human being. We grieve for the great person we lost this past weekend, but we should also take time to celebrate the great life and career of a man who devoted his time and talent towards the betterment and education of young men. You made me proud to be a Billiken. You will be missed coach Majerus. We love you Rick Ma. AMDG

Tommy Randolph