LAWRENCE — Every Monday, The Star delves in Kansas basketball — and the week ahead. Here's the second installment of the new series.
By RUSTIN DODD
Kansas City Star
LAWRENCE — It was hard to argue with the results. Just two days after taking seven shots against Michigan State — a number that left Bill Self a little frustrated — freshman Ben McLemore responded with a 25-point performance in Kansas’ 69-55 victory over Chattanooga on Thursday night.
It was the most points by a KU freshman since Xavier Henry scored 31 against LaSalle on Dec. 12, 2009. And McLemore, a 6-foot-5 guard, finished eight of 18 from the field, taking eight more shots than anyone else on Kansas.
But where did the extra shots come from? How did McLemore get to 25? We broke down some tape to dive into McLemore’s offensive performance. And based on the numbers, Chattanooga may have been fortunate it wasn't more.
** Start here: Three of McLemore’s eight field goals came in transition — two dunks and a three-pointer off a kickout pass from Naadir Tharpe; three of his field goals came in the half court, including his first bucket, a baseline dunk out of the Jayhawks’ three-man weave offense; and the other two baskets came on lob dunks on in-bounds set plays.
** That, however, doesn’t really tell the whole story. McLemore scored 25 points while shooting 44 percent. And he could have certainly been more efficient. McLemore missed three open three-pointers coming off double screens in KU’s secondary break, and he also botched a left-handed layup in transition.
Take away his dunks, and McLemore shot just 23 percent (three of 13) for the game. On all non-layup and dunk attempts, McLemore shot just 30 percent (three for nine).
It’s too early to know what kind of shooter McLemore will be over the span of a season. But based on his skill level and Self’s view of his talents, let’s conservatively say he’ll shoot around 35 percent on non-layups and dunks (essentially three-pointers and long jumpers). In this case, he shot a little worse than his potential against Chattanooga. Imagine what McLemore's stat line looks like if he shoot 40 percent on non-layups and dunks.
We’ll pause here to consider the competition. It’s almost certain McLemore won’t finish with five dunks against most Big 12 teams. But there’s a reason Self has pleaded with McLemore to be more aggressive. If he can continue to get to the rim — and shoot 35 percent or so from three — he has the potential to be one of the most efficient backcourt players in the Big 12.
Here’s McLemore’s in-depth shot chart, in order, from his 25-point night:
1 Baseline dunk off the three-man weave
2 Corner three-pointer off a ball-reversal pass from Tharpe
3 Wing three-pointer off a transition kickout from Tharpe
4 Jumpshot off a curl screen set-play
5 Transition dunk off a Travis Releford steal
6 Backdoor lob dunk off a set in-bounds play
7 Transition dunk off a steal
8 Backdoor lob dunk off a set in-bounds play
1 Open three-pointer off the secondary break: miss
2 Open three pointer off the secondary break: miss
3 Offensive rebound and putback: blocked
4 Offensive rebound and tip-in: miss
5 Guarded jumper off broken play at the halftime buzzer: miss
6 Wing three-pointer off reversal (against the zone): miss
7 Open three-pointer off the secondary break: miss
8 Open jumper off a set in-bounds play: miss
9 Offensive rebound and putback: miss
10 Left-handed layup in transition: missed.
McLemore’s five dunks against Chattanooga gave him seven for the season; he went dunkless, if you can believe it, against Michigan State.
It’s only three games into the season, so it’s a requirement that we mention sample size. But through three games, McLemore is on pace for 72 dunks during KU’s 31-game regular season schedule. Yes, that would be pretty unprecedented for a perimeter player.
Here’s KU’s dunk leaders from last season (39 games):
74, Thomas Robinson
38, Jeff Withey
15, Elijah Johnson
15, Kevin Young
McLemore, obviously, won’t keep up his Wilkinsian pace. (Will he?) But we’ll definitely be keeping watch.
Speaking of historic paces: KU senior center Jeff Withey has 13 blocks in three games, an average of more than four rejections per contest.
Withey already holds or shares the KU records for most blocks in a game (10), half (7) and season (140). And after just three games, he’s up to 178 blocked shots in his career. That leaves him 80 blocks short of Greg Ostertag’s KU career record of 258. If Withey keeps up his current pace, he should reach Ostertag sometime around the first week of February.