BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Throughout his freshman season at Kansas, Ben McLemore heard the buzz of being a top-five draft pick, and based upon his 36-point splash against WVU in March, he looked talented enough to go No. 1 overall.
But on draft night, the dynamic guard with the explosive hops and the smooth 3-point stroke fell to the Sacramento Kings at No. 7. Though not a precipitous drop, the 20-year-old McLemore admitted it was enough to fuel him as an NBA rookie.
“I can be an alpha dog and take over games and help my teams win games,” he said. “Coming in, I definitely got a chip on my shoulder, but I know I can handle it right. I know I’m going to go in there and work.”
McLemore, who ESPN analyst Jay Bilas labeled the most talented player in the draft, was among four Big 12 players selected Thursday, though he was the lone first-rounder.
In the second round, McLemore’s teammate Jeff Withey went to Portland with the 39th overall pick. The 7-footer was one of college basketball’s top shot-swatters—and the Big 12’s career leader in that category despite being only a two-year starter.
Baylor’s Pierre Jackson, the league leader in scoring (19.8 points per game) and assists (7.1), was chosen by Philadelphia at No. 42.
Oklahoma’s Romero Osby, a 6-8 forward who averaged 16.0 points and 7.0 rebounds on his way to all-Big 12 honors, was selected by Orlando at No. 51.
Despite being an All-Big 12 performer, K-State’s Rodney McGruder held only slim hopes of being selected, and alas, he wasn’t. Now the 6-4 guard must earn a roster spot as a free agent or by improving his game overseas.
Texas point guard Myck Kabongo, who had most of his sophomore season sucked away by a slow-crawling NCAA investigation, went undrafted. Though many mock drafts projected Kabongo as a second-rounder, an unnamed NBA scout recently panned the Longhorn to SI.com’s Seth Davis:
“I’m not feeling him. Never have. He probably should have gone back to Texas, although I don’t know if they wanted him back. He’s one of the fastest guys in the draft so he’s intriguing, but his outside shooting and decision making are concerns.”
Another underclassmen who wasn’t picked, Oklahoma junior forward Amath M’Baye, simply reinforced the notion that being steady and productive in the college game is no guarantee an NBA team will draft you.
Among the players West Virginia faced last season, Michigan point guard Trey Burke was selected by Minnesota at No. 9 and promptly dealt to Utah. His Wolverines teammate Tim Hardaway Jr. was chosen later in the first round by the Knicks with the 24th pick.
Virginia Tech guard Erick Green, who scored 23 points in a 68-67 loss in Morgantown last December, was chosen by the Jazz at No. 46 and traded to Denver.