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Comparing Ben McLemore to Other Elite Kansas Freshmen

Ben McLemore has set Lawrence ablaze in his debut, but where does he rank amongst other recent elite Freshmen at Kansas?

Jamie Squire

After Kansas's first 8 games, Freshman Ben McLemore leads the Jayhawks in scoring, averaging 16 points per game. The St. Louis native has shown the ability to score via the three, the mid range jumper, and of course the highlight reel dunk. Further, he has shown that he can rebound, pass, play defense and that he possesses the basketball IQ necessary to play for Bill Self. In short, he's been one of the best Freshmen to come through in the Bill Self era.

But has he been the best? It's early, but I crunched some numbers and stacked McLemore up against Brandon Rush, Xavier Henry, Julian Wright, Darrell Arthur and Mario Chalmers.

Player Rivals Recruiting Ranking Minutes Played (%) Usage Rate (%) ORtg eFG Rebounding Rate (Off/Def) Assist%/TO%
Ben McLemore 34 75 25.6 116 51.6 7.7/12.9 16/13.2
Brandon Rush 13 79 20.8 104.3 54.3 5.3/14.4 11.8/21.7
Xavier Henry 8 68.3 22.1 112.7 55.5 5.1/11.7 9.8/18
Julian Wright 8 50 23.1 101.8 56.4 9.3/15.3 18.1/23.8
Darrell Arthur 16 47 25 107.2 53.8 12.8/14.5 4.7/16.4
Mario Chalmers 12 64.8 23.9 104.8 53.3 1.1/7.9 27/25.8

Because of the lack of minutes played we can dismiss Arthur and Wright immediately, so it's down to the other four.

Not to take this point off topic, but once again I have to beat the drum about how under appreciated Xavier Henry was. He played on a really good team, and I think because his role in the offense was mostly hitting jump shots coupled with the fact that he played on probably the most disappointing Kansas team in the last decade (and the recruiting saga) soured a lot of Kansas fans to him and made them forget how good he really was. But he wasn't just along for the ride while Rush was carrying the offense, as evidenced by Henry's superior usage rate. He didn't come on until later in the year defensively, but once he bought in he was pretty good on that end of the floor.

Defensively speaking, Rush, Chalmers and McLemore are all very good perimeter defenders. In fact, Chalmers led the nation in steal percentage his Freshman year. Chalmers is probably the third best Freshman on this table (and thus of the Bill Self era unless I am missing someone painfully obvious), as he shot the ball well and had a lot of assists with actually a pretty decent turnover rate for a Freshman. His numbers look even better when considering that the starting lineup his Freshman year featured three Freshmen and a Sophomore.

The best Freshman on this list, so far, however, is McLemore. Weirdly enough he was the lowest ranked guy on this list coming out of high school by quite a bit. Looking at the rankings from that year though and I think it's painfully obvious he was underrated for some reason.

He still has some tough nonconference games coming up and then the Big 12 conference season to play, so his numbers might go down a bit, but Ben McLemore has the second highest usage rate on the team (to Andrew White, so really the highest), he's shooting the ball fairly well, rebounding, has more assists than turnovers, is drawing 5 fouls per 40 minutes and shooting 86% from the line. Again, it's early, but Ben McLemore is on track to exceed all expectations, and while he's at it might just be the best Freshman we've seen in 10 years.