When Ben Lammers hit the travel circuit this past spring, he was a largely unknown big man playing for scholarship offers. In fact, we didn't even have a profile photo for him upon first detailing his game, which is rare.
Texas does produce a great deal of talent, of course, and certainly it isn't unprecedented for someone to slip through the cracks. Particularly in San Antonio, rather than Dallas or Houston, a player can surface as a major surprise.
His AAU team also isn't one the Lone Star State's most heralded travel programs. The South Texas Spurs featured two good big guys, though, also including Boise State-bound David Whacker.
As for Lammers, he took a huge stride at the Adidas Invitational at the opening of the July evaluation period. He carried that momentum into the Great American Shootout and marshaled even more serious interest from college coaches.
By the time he reached Las Vegas at the end of the month, he claimed offers from Texas A&M, Kansas State and Oklahoma State, with Stanford, Marquette, New Mexico, Washington State, Northwestern and Purdue also in pursuit.
He set up fall visits and began to take trips in September. His intended stops included Marquette, Georgia Tech, Miami and Stanford. He took in Tech's Atlanta campus later that month and pledged to Brian Gregory's program within a couple weeks of that trip.
Lammers first established himself a defensive presence. He boasts good length and excellent timing for blocking shots, and against even top foes he proved he could hold his own physically. Because he's 6-10, 220 pounds, he has a solid frame to build upon at the next level.
He uses his body intelligently as an interior defender and appears to possess sound spatial instincts for guarding his man as well as anticipating where a pass might go to a cutter.
But he's more than just a defensive player. Lammers can step out and bury a medium-range jump shot, and thus he projects well in high screen-and-roll scenarios. He generally possesses a nice touch around the rim, and as he becomes stronger he should finish reasonably well in traffic.
He's a solid rebounder as well, and he also impressed with nice court awareness as a passer.
Lammers lacks great end-to-end speed and also isn't an explosive leaper or quick laterally. He likely will be troubled in the ACC when matched against superlative rejectors or big men who can shoot and handle facing the basket. The coaching staff likely will need to utilize him in spots as a freshman while he learns the college game, the idea being that over time he'll learn to compensate for his limitations.
The importance of signing a true center with (eventual) strength and skill rarely gets overstated. While many programs have transitioned into a perimeter oriented offense, Lammers actually could succeed both as an interior counterpoint as well as someone who can flourish amid the rampant high ball screens that most teams now set.
I don't project Lammers to become an all-conference level player, but I do believe he can become a valuable, multi-year starter for the Yellow Jackets and fill a vital frontcourt need for four seasons.