It will have to be a clean slate for "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk" as four senior starters and stud freshman Ben McLemore will all leave Kansas following the 2012-2013 season. Coach Bill Self will be tasked with replacing McLemore's keen scoring ability, the phenomenal defense of center Jeff Withey and the veteran leadership of guys like Travis Releford and Kevin Young. Sorry Elijah Johnson, you're Ringo.
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At first glance, trying to replace a lottery pick with a bench player or an incoming recruit is like replacing George Clooney on ER with this guy. Sure, he's handsome and foreign. But Clooney. It could also appear that McLemore wasn't THAT big of a part of the Jayhawks success, but that can be deceiving. While it's true that sometimes the freshman was unsure of his role on the team and appeared to defer in big moments, that was more due to team construction than McLemore's nature. Kansas was built to win last year with our without contributions from their star recruit, with four seniors ready to take their final shot at a national title.
What Kansas fans are really missing out on is what the Jayhawks could have done when McLemore was handed the keys to the offense in his sophomore season. Gone would be turnover machine and bad-shot hoister Johnson, and in his place would be a more promising Naadir Tharpe or Andrew White III. But both would have to defer to McLemore, who would likely have cracked the 20 ppg mark for his next three seasons of eligibility. And you can't deny his locker-room presence.
Guys like Tharpe and White III taking big steps forward could keep the Jayhawks relevant, as well as forward Perry Ellis. The 6'8, 225-pound forward proved to be a force on the glass in limited minutes and can score inside, the latter of which is something that Jeff Withey was never able to provide.
Once again, Bill Self has a stellar recruiting class coming in, one that features four players in the ESPN100. Small forward Wayne Selden from Boston highlights the list at No. 12. There's also Joel Embiid, who at 6'11 is a raw talent at No. 28. But you can't teach size, and Self will have plenty to work with to revamp a Kansas team that has won at least a share of the last nine Big 12 regular season titles.
Most early indications are that the Jayhawks will be ranked in pre-season polls, if only on faith that Bill Self can do what he does every year -- field a competitive team that has title aspirations. The loss of McLemore hurts a young team like Kansas, but such is the state of one-and-done college basketball.