It had been a few years since Kansas coach Bill Self had attended the NBA Draft, but he had a pretty simple reason for wanting to be in the green room at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Thursday night.
Ben McLemore asked him to be there.
“The whole thing is,” Self said late Thursday night, “only so many guys get invited to the green room, but the bottom line is I wanted to be there because he asked me to be there. He said he and his family wanted me there. That was the biggest thing.”
So Self was there, watching and waiting, as McLemore slipped to Sacramento with the No. 7 overall pick. Self was also mildly surprised that former KU center Jeff Withey dropped out of the first round and went to Portland with the 39th overall pick.
“I wish they both would’ve gone higher,” Self said. “I was hoping Ben would’ve gone in the top four and was hoping Jeff would make it in the first round, but those things can happen. I actually like the teams they went to. I think they’re both great opportunities for both of those guys.
“I’ve talked to both of them a lot and I know that Jeff is excited. He said he’s more motivated now than ever and Ben, I was with him and his family. They were just soaking in the moment and were so proud. It was a good night for Kansas.”
McLemore heads to a Sacramento franchise that selected former Kansas All-American Thomas Robinson with the fifth overall pick in 2012. Robinson was quickly flipped to Houston in a mid-year trade last season, but the franchise appears to be on an upswing under new owner Vivek Ranadive, who purchased the team in May and is expected to keep the franchise in Sacramento for the long-term.
Former Kansas center Cole Aldrich finished last season with the Kings, but he’ll become a free agent this offseason.
There’s the possibility, of course, that McLemore’s draft-night slip could provide a measure of motivation for a player who often deferred to older teammates during his one season at Kansas. But Self wasn’t sure that McLemore’s draft position was that unexpected.
“It might (provide motivation) but I don’t think that a competitor needs to go two spots lower to get fired up,” Self said of McLemore dropping to seventh. “Maybe it will a little bit and if it does, that’s great. But with this draft, was there ever any idea where anybody was going? There’s not that much difference in the guys. So Ben could’ve gone higher or he could’ve just as easily gone exactly where he did. I didn’t see tonight as a negative in any way, shape or form.”
• Former Kansas guard Travis Releford, a graduate of Bishop Miege, went undrafted on Thursday night. But he could be headed to summer camp with the Indiana Pacers, according to ESPN college basketball reporter Jeff Goodman.