Kansas guard Ben McLemore is projected to be a top pick in the June draft. (Greg Nelson/SI)
Kansas redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore declared for the NBA draft on Tuesday.
“I think that’s the best opportunity to me to help me and my family out,” McLemore said, according to the Kansas City Star. “Now I have the opportunity to do that.”
SI.com's Chris Mannix had McLemore in the No. 1 spot on his most recent big board, in mid-March, before the start of the NCAA tournament.
Most executives who have been following him -- and that list covers any team that thinks it will have a mathematical chance to land a top-three pick -- see McLemore as a rock-solid starting shooting guard, and the freshman has done little to dissuade that opinion. He put up a season-high 36 points (knocking down 5-of-6 three-pointers) against West Virginia and followed it up with 23 in a disappointing loss to Baylor two games later. With prototypical size, strength and shooting stroke, McLemore is being referred to by more than one executive as "can't miss."
McLemore, 20, averaged 15.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists for the Jayhawks, who lost to Michigan in the Sweet 16. He had 20 points (on 8-of-15 shooting) in the loss to the Wolverines after scoring two points and missing all nine of his field-goal attempts in a third-round victory over North Carolina. Overall, McLemore shot 49.5 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range, earning first-team all-Big 12 and second-team AP All-America honors.
Earlier this year, in a USA Today Sports profile, the St. Louis native discussed growing up in poverty.
"It's a hard feeling — just starve," McLemore says. "Dang, what are we going to do? Dang, how are we going to eat? How are we going to put food on the table?"
McLemore and younger brother Kevin would disperse throughout the neighborhood to cut grass, move trash, clean cars, fix motor scooters and bikes, anything that would yield a few dollars for hot dogs or Hot Pockets.
"You get those hunger pains," McLemore said. "I am so hungry. We don't have any food. What are we going to eat? Your stomach hurts. Then you get so upset and mad, like, no food. You start having tantrums and don't want to do anything. You get mad at everybody because you don't have any food. That's what happens when you don't eat. You are so sluggish. It's just bad, man."