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June 28, 2013

Self on the draft

Following Thursday's 2013 NBA Draft, Kansas coach Bill Self held a teleconference with media to discuss the selections of Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey.

After seeing two more of his players taken in the NBA Draft, Bill Self met with the media via teleconference Thursday evening to share his thoughts on the evening in Brooklyn, NY.

Ben McLemore was taken No. 7 overall by the Sacramento Kings-the second straight year that franchise has taken a Kansas player with its first pick-and should present the former Jayhawk guard with the opportunity to come in right away and make an impact.

Following McLemore's selection, big man Jeff Withey was taken in the latter stages of the second round, 39th overall by the Portland Trailblazers.

"I wish they both would have gone higher. I thought Ben would go in the top 4 and Jeff in the first round, but those things happen," said Self, who attended the draft with McLemore and his family. "I actually like the teams they went to. I think they are both great opportunities for both guys and I talked to them a lot and I know Jeff is excited and more motivated than ever and Ben, I was with he and his family and they were just so in the moment and so proud. It was a good night for Kansas. Those two didn't go quite as high as we'd hoped but it was a special night."

The night was filled with plenty of uncertainty. No clear No. 1 pick was known to insiders, leaving some doubt as to where McLemore might end up. There was talk of Cleveland, Charlotte, Phoenix, and Sacramento all having interest in the 6-foot-5 scorer.

The Cavs surprised nearly everyone by taking UNLV freshman Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick, which then sent probably the most likely top pick in the days leading up to the draft, Nerlens Noel sliding down to No. 6. Once the Kings were on the clock, word came out quickly of the organizations intentions to take McLemore, and was seemingly giddy that he actually fell to them at No. 7.

When asked if he had any idea as to where he might go, Self said McLemore, as well as everyone else, had no indication whatsoever.

"No. He had no idea," said Self. "Ben had no idea where he would go, which I don't think that is totally unusual. We thought he had a real good shot at going to Charlotte, but the bottom line is he's where he needs to be. It'll be motivation for him, but also shows him that this is a business and I thought he handled everything great tonight. He was so proud to be there and to be a Jayhawk representing our program."

Self doesn't always attend the green room with his players on draft night, but not because he doesn't want to be there. When asked about why he was there, Self said it was because he was wanted among the allotted six that were allowed to join the player at their designated table.

"Only so many guys get invited to the green room, but the bottom line is I wanted to be there because Ben said he wanted me to be there, and his family did, so that was the biggest thing. I was really proud to be there with him tonight."

Some players use a slide in selection as motivation to work harder. It's hard to say where McLemore fell was really a slide, considering each of the top seven had at some point or another, been projected to go at any of the top 7 spots. However, any extra motivation to work harder in your first summer as a pro is certainly a benefit.

"The consensus was that he would go anywhere from 1-7. I don't think he needs to go two spots lower to get fired up," Self said. "Maybe it will a little bit and if it does then that's great but was there ever any clear idea where anyone was going? There's not that much difference between guys, so Ben could have gone higher but the consensus was that he would go exactly where he did."

Sacramento has been in a long slump when it comes to success in the NBA. Its lack of progression on the court has been almost as frustrating as its problems with the city off it. The Kings have spent years in a battle with the city for a new arena, eventually making a deal with Seattle to move the franchise.
However, when Mayor and former NBA player, Kevin Johnson, worked out a plan to come up with a location and the finances through an investment group to keep the Kings, momentum shifted in the right direction.

As the capital of California, Sacramento isn't a big city compared to the likes of San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, but it's a sports-friendly town which is big enough. Its location is almost perfectly in the middle of wine country, San Francisco, and Lake Tahoe, making it an ideal spot for people looking to enjoy the various aesthetic pleasantries of Northern California.

For McLemore, a quiet, light-hearted kid who just wants to play basketball and please people, a gentler metropolis is an ideal location to begin an NBA career. Depending on the status of former Kansas center Cole Aldrich, he may also have a familiar face and a mentor to lean on while getting acclimated to being a professional athlete.

"They just paid a lot of money to keep them there so there will be a lot of excitement. I think it's a good fit for Ben. I think a big city right off the bad would be tough for Ben, but being in a situation like Sacramento, even though it's not small, I think it'll be a good situation for him."

"I hope Cole is still there. If Cole is still there I think he could be a huge asset," Self added.

As for Jeff Withey, his spot with the Trailblazers isn't yet guaranteed. Withey likely isn't ready to be a highly productive offensive player in the NBA, but his ability to block shots with excellent timing and without fouling give him a unique defensive repertoire which isn't often seen in the NBA these days.

For second-round picks, the NBA summer league and workouts is the chance to prove your worth to the team which selected you.

"The biggest thing he's got to work. He needs to do a good job with their summer league and get a little bit stronger and keep honing his skills. I've heard he had really good workouts with several teams. I don't think he has to change anything, he just needs to get a little bit better at everything he does."

It was another successful draft for the Kansas Basketball program. Both the Sacramento Kings and the Portland Trailblazers drafted players with plenty to offer and with the type of coaching which has proven to be successful and translate into wins. Moving forward, Self has an entire roster littered with NBA talent, so his presence in the green room may just be getting started.

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