A year ago, Ben McLemore was a lifetime away from making his Allen Fieldhouse debut. As McLemore met with the media on Thursday afternoon, it was evident that much has changed for the talented guard since he first met with the media a year ago.
A year ago, Ben McLemore, the 6-foot-5, 195-pound shooting guard from St. Louis, Mo., was simply devastated when Kansas head coach Bill Self informed the talented freshman that he'd be forced to miss the entire 2011-12 season after being ruled ineligible as a prop 48.
McLemore, under prop 48 rules, was allowed to attend class and was permitted to practice with the team second semester, but couldn't participate in Late Night in the Phog and, above all else, was forced to sit out the entire season.
Fast-forward to Thursday media day inside Allen Fieldhouse, and McLemore's outlook for this upcoming, not surprisingly, had a completely different view.
"I'm feeling great," McLemore said on Thursday afternoon. "It's just a blessing to be here. I sat out last year and I couldn't participate last year with the team. Now I'm here, I worked hard last year and now I'm just here and ready to play.
"And I'm very excited to be here," he added with a smile. "I nicked myself up overseas a little bit, but if we played a game tomorrow, I'd definitely be ready to play."
McLemore arrived in Lawrence as a freshman with the highest of expectations. The No. 34 ranked player in the 2011 class, McLemore, was considered the crown jewel of KU's recruiting class. It's no secret that Self, along with members of his staff, invested countless hours recruiting the native of St. Louis, Mo.
At one point, it looked as if the Missouri Tigers would emerge victorious in one of the most intensely watched recruiting battles the class of 2011 had to offer.
However, when the dust finally settled and a decision was made, McLemore, sitting in-between his mother, Sonia Day and AAU coach, Darius Cobb, announced for Kansas following an All-Star game in Chicago.
Since his arrival in Lawrence, Self has hinted on occasion that McLemore has the chance to be "a special" player during his tenure. In fact, while addressing the media on Thursday, Self compared McLemore to former Jayhawk Brandon Rush.
Despite not playing a regular season game, McLemore welcomes the high expectations with open arms.
"Whatever he (Coach Self) wants me to do, that's what I'm going to do," said McLemore. "I know he looks up to me and wants me to do a lot of things for this program and stuff like that. Whatever Coach (Self) wants me to do, I'm going to go out and do it.
"I learned a lot from last year," he added. "Just going out and playing with Tyshawn Taylor, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and all those upperclassmen helped me. Just going against them every day in practice helped me work hard every day. It just made me a better person, and mature more too."
Freshman Andrew White should play a major role this season
Any doubts about Andrew White's ability to step-in as a freshman and play a major role this season were quickly laid to rest during KU's exhibition tour overseas in August.
In four games, the 6-foot-6, 210-pound shooting guard from Chester, Va., averaged a team-high 11.0 points per game.
Overall, White, the No. 51 ranked player in the 2012 class, shot 15-of-31 from the field and connected on 8-of-18 shots from behind the arc. He was also credited with a team-high eight steals and was 6-of-8 from the free-throw line.
According to White, his transition from prep hoops to big time college basketball was so smooth for a number of reasons.
"I just played hard," White told Jayhawk Slant. "Coach (Self) gave me an opportunity to come in and contribute, and it just so happened that I had a couple of good scoring games. Come this season, that's probably not going to be the case, where they look at me as the leading scorer.
"Anyway I can contribute to the team winning, that's what I'll do," he added.
Don't be at all surprised if White leads Kansas in scoring on a number of occasions. His stroke from the outside has the potential to be deadly for Self's squad, and once he becomes more comfortable scoring off the bounce, defending White night in and night out will be a difficult task.
However, with his career at Kansas just beginning, White's main goal is to help keep the winning tradition at Kansas at its current pace.
"I just want to be able to help deliver Coach Self his ninth straight conference championship," said White. "I want to be on the team that keeps that streak going, so that's what I'm probably looking forward to most.
"And I know if we win the Big 12, we're going to get a good tournament seed and that's the starting point to go far in the tournament," he added.
Goals remain the same for Perry Ellis
During his four year prep career at Wichita (KS) Heights High School, Perry Ellis achieved excellence, both on and off the court.
On the hardwood, the 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward led Heights to four straight state championships and graduated as the four time Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year.
Off the court, Ellis was perfect in the classroom and represented his teammates, classmates, family, friends and members of the community with class and dignity. Ellis epitomized what a student-athlete is all about.
Having left a legacy that won't soon be forgotten in his hometown, Ellis, a former five-star prospect and McDonald's All-American, is hoping to have a similar type impact at Kansas.
"First, I just want to listen to the coaches and just play hard and just do whatever I need to do for the team," said Ellis. "I just want to help this team win game by game. I try to think that way and tell my teammates that, too. Game by game is just the best way to go.
"Team wise, my goal is to just win," he added. "You win game by game, eventually some accolades are going to come. That's just the way you've got to look at it. You've got to keep winning."