It’s possible that the top two picks in this month’s NBA Draft spent the last year playing basketball at Kansas. Possible, of course, because Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid are each likely to be selected in the top three on June 26, and could go first and second.
But if losing the top two picks in the NBA Draft usually prevents a college basketball program from upgrading its talent level in the offseason, well… Ben McLemore would like to disagree.
McLemore, the former Kansas star and top-10 pick in 2013, is back at KU this summer, working on his college degree and taking part in the usual summer pickup games. He’s only been in town a few weeks, and Kansas’ latest freshmen class — well, three-fourths of it minus Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk — has only been on campus a few days.
But McLemore, slipping into the role of scout and talent evaluator, is already impressed with what he’s seen.
"Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of talent last year,” McLemore says. “But there’s even more talent in the gym."
Perhaps this sounds a little like college basketball blasphemy — more talent after losing two lottery picks? But for McLemore, it begins with sophomore guard Wayne Selden, who is looking stronger after recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this spring.
Kansas coach Bill Self said in April that Selden played with a “bad wheel” for most of last season, and it appears that Selden is regaining some of his athleticism.
“He’s always been in attack mode,” McLemore says, “but just the energy is starting to take over, and he’s getting his bounce back after that surgery. He’s looking good. His shot is getting more consistent.”
Here’s some video evidence that supports McLemore’s thesis:
“He’s looking good,” McLemore said. “I’m very excited to see next season.”
McLemore, who spoke to campers at Bill Self’s basketball camp on Monday afternoon, also offered a quick scouting report on the three newcomers that have reported to campus — power forward Cliff Alexander, swingman Kelly Oubre and point guard Devonte’ Graham.
McLemore on Cliff Alexander: “He can do a lot of damage on this college level, and also with this program he can help a lot.”
McLemore on Kelly Oubre Jr.: “When we first started, I didn’t know he was left handed. I didn’t know he was left-handed until he shot the ball. I was like: ‘Oh, wow, he’s left-handed?’ So he’s going to be pretty good once he learns how to play the game and just the system and stuff. He’s definitely going to be good. He can shoot the ball.”
McLemore on Devonte’ Graham: “Devonte’ has speed, quickness, and there’s one thing: He can shoot the ball. He can shoot. And he’s fast. He’s pretty long, and he can stay in front of his man pretty good. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be kind of hard. I want to see how that gym is going to be in practices. There’s a lot of talent.”