Kings draft Kansas SG Ben McLemore with 7th pick
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The Sacramento Kings selected Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore with the seventh pick in the NBA draft Thursday night, the first major move under the new ownership and basketball operations team.
More than 2,000 fans inside Sacramento's arena cheered when the Kings chose McLemore, though most of the purple-and-black faithful were just happy to be back in the building after the franchise almost moved to Seattle in May. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound guard gives the Kings an elite shooter and one of the most gifted natural athletes in the draft.
The pick could be particularly useful if the Kings lose combo guard Tyreke Evans this offseason. Evans, the 2009-10 NBA Rookie of the Year who has been saddled with knee injuries and inconsistency ever since, is set to become a restricted free agent if he declines Sacramento's qualifying offer as expected.
The Kings also hold the 36th overall pick in the draft.
While he's still an unpolished pro, McLemore has shown glimpses he could succeed at the NBA level. The second-team All-American broke Danny Manning's freshman scoring record at Kansas, averaging 15.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and two assists on a team that went 31-6 and won a share of its ninth straight Big 12 title.
It's the second straight year Sacramento used its first-round selection on a Kansas player, and new general manager Pete D'Alessandro hopes McLemore pans out better than predecessor Geoff Petrie's previous pick. The Kings took Thomas Robinson fifth last June, but he struggled from the start and was traded to Houston in February.
McLemore was forced to redshirt in the 2011-12 season when he was declared a partial qualifier by the NCAA, but he made the most of his only season in Lawrence. With a dizzying array of dunks, a silky smooth outside shot and a boyish grin, he quickly became one of the school's top players. He even graced a regional cover for Sports Illustrated prior to the start of the NCAA tournament.
McLemore's ball-handling skills and ability to create his own shot were among the questions scouts had about him entering the draft. The 20-year-old McLemore, whose rise from the neighborhood playgrounds in an impoverished St. Louis community has been well chronicled, also perplexed some with his inconsistency - starring one game, then disappearing the next.
McLemore helped the Jayhawks advance to the NCAA tournament's regional semifinals, where they blew a late lead and lost to eventual national runner-up Michigan. He scored 20 points in that game, and proved to have another trait that should come in handy in the NBA: A short memory.
But he was 0 for 9 from the floor in his previous game, a win over North Carolina. Even still, the stage never seemed too much for McLemore to handle.
He hit the buzzer-beating 3-pointer to force overtime in a win over Iowa State, scored 30 points in a win over rival Kansas State and had a career-high 36 points against West Virginia late in the season.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP
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