Ben McLemore did not take a direct route to pro basketball. No matter where the Kansas star shooting guard ends up after the NBA Draft on June 27, his road has been filled with twists and turns. He attended three high schools, was ineligible his freshman year at Kansas and then earlier this spring his AAU coach admitted he took money from a middleman in order to steer McLemore toward hiring the man as an advisor, charges McLemore denies. Of course, none of that will matter when McLemore hears his name called and puts a brand new ballcap on his head in three weeks. "I worked so hard to get to this point,'' he said during the NBA combine in Chicago in May. "Now that I’m here, I’ve just got to keep working. "Years before this I probably wouldn’t think I’d be in this position to take care of my family and take care of myself. It’s a dream come true.'' The dream started back in St. Louis. Growing up as one of six siblings in a poor family that sometimes went without food, heat and electricity, the spindly McLemore burst onto the scene his junior year at Wellston High School. He was named an all-metro selection by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after averaging 28.3 points, 12.7 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.3 blocked shots as the Trojans finished third in the 2010 Class 2 state tournament. His calling card was his picture-perfect jump shot, honed by working on it day after day with coach Jeff McCaw. "My high school coach at St. Louis kept me in the gym working on it,'' McLemore said. "It’s crazy. I had different types of shooting forms and I had to change my shot a lot. He changed it perfectly. He kept me in the gym working hard. Once I got older, I stayed in there and kept this same stroke and this same release.'' McLemore also played AAU basketball with Washington's Bradley Beal, the No. 3 pick in the 2012 draft. It helped prepare him for the all the fanfare that was to come. "It was a great squad,'' McLemore said. "I loved playing with him, being on that stage with him. For the first time being in the spotlight, bright lights and stuff. It was great playing with him. Watching him and knowing he could be a potential draft pick, and now me being a potential draft pick, it’s crazy.'' Unfortunately for McLemore, Wellston closed, and he was forced to find a new high school. He started his senior year at Oak Hill Academy, then transferred to Christian Life Center in Texas and averaged 16 points and seven rebounds in six games. Perhaps not surprisingly after that nomadic senior year, McLemore was declared a partial academic qualifier his freshman year at Kansas. He couldn't practice with the team until the second semester, couldn't play for an entire season. The wait was worth it. Showing the athleticism and shooting stroke he's known for, McLemore averaged 15.9 points and 5.2 rebounds as the Jayhawks finished 31-6. If there was any criticism, it was that he wasn't aggressive enough, seemingly reluctant to take over games.
Ben McLemore is only a few steps from realizing his dream
Cleveland Plain Dealer | Jun 9