Ben McLemore welcomes blank slate with Kings

Ronald Martinez

Ben McLemore often looks like the best player on the court at times, but he earned a reputation for drifting and losing focus. Will he able to harbor his immense talent with the Kings?

When it comes to Ben McLemore, the narrative has been repeated ad-nauseum: he's a monstrously talented basketball player, but lacks the killer instinct to really strike fear into the hearts of opponents.

It's an argument that might have caused McLemore to slide to in the 2013 NBA Draft. There was a time during the college season when some pegged the Kansas guard as a potential No. 1 overall selection, but he had to until the seventh pick for his name to be called by the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night. Now McLemore is ready put his old reputation to rest for good.

Criticism of McLemore never really came from a statistical basis. He led the Kansas Jayhawks in minutes and points after all. But the consistent story is that as good of a jumper as McLemore has, he defers to other teammates too often.

Fox Sports Kansas City says the team that picks McLemore is getting more Scottie Pippen than Michael Jordan. To be labeled Scottie Pippen shouldn't really carry too much of an insult, but the point is there -- McLemore doesn't take games over, he concedes them.

There were plenty of instances throughout his one year of college that proved otherwise. McLemore dropped 33 points on Iowa State, including a game-tying three-pointer with one second left to force overtime in a 97-89 overtime win. He scored 36 points in a 91-65 drubbing of West Virginia, needing only 15 shots to get there. He scored 30 points against Kansas State in a game that reminded the in-state rival Wildcats the road to the Big 12 goes through Allen Fieldhouse.

Still, sometimes it was tough to know which McLemore is going to show up. He was held to single digit points six times over the season. He took less than 10 shots in a game 16 times. At times, however, it seemed that much of the narrative of McLemore's story came from Kansas' struggles. The Jayhawks were supposed to be one of the best teams in the nation. They were, but they also lost three straight games for the first time in eight years, one of those losses to a TCU team considered one of the worst in the history of college hoops.

The question revolves on what the expectations are for a freshman on a team of seniors. Is it right to expect a freshman to drag his team kicking and screaming through the NCAA Tournament to the championship? Regardless of how good he may be, a freshman is a freshman, someone who is unproven on the big stage. That is what made the thrill of Carmelo Anthony's run with Syracuse in 2003 that much more exciting.

It seems hard to look at McLemore's life story and say he lacks the killer instinct. Just read the USA Today piece on his upbringing and it seems pretty clear that anything less than the killer instinct and life eats McLemore for breakfast. He grew up in more poverty than most people who profile him will ever experience or know. He was the second-youngest of six kids sleeping inside a home that was smaller than 600 square feet, struggling to find food on the table and hot water to bathe with. Where as the other kids were playing in the AAU circuit, McLemore was focusing on surviving.

There might not have been a more interesting figure in college hoops last year. Kansas coach Bill Self said McLemore is just scratching the surface of his potential and compared him to Ray Allen in an interview with the CBS affiliate in Cleveland. Heading into the NBA and the land of larger than life egos, it is a fair question whether or not McLemore will be able to match up with them. He wasn't the vocal leader on the Jayhawks squad, but that was because with four other seniors to carry the torch there wasn't a need.

Whether or not he has the killer instinct will most likely be irrelevant throughout his NBA career. Most scouts agree that he has one of the best jump shots in the draft, still oozes plenty of potential, has a high ceiling and is a hard worker. At the end of the day, the way to win basketball games involves scoring as many points as possible. McLemore did that unlike any other freshman for Kansas, and will probably do the same for the Kings.

More from SB Nation:

NBA Draft 2013 Grades and Results

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett get traded as the Celtics finally blow it up

Victor Oladipo's unconventional journey to the Orlando Magic

Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Brooklyn: Go big and go home

Sixers divebomb the standings to come out on top

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.


You must be a member of to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at You should read them.


You must be a member of to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.