Jeffrey McCaw had seen it all along.
As an eighth-grader, current Wellston-Eskridge High School basketball
standout Ben McLemore stood 5-foot-8. An acceptable height for a
middle-school post player, but he had the quickness and budding skills
of a guard, McCaw said.
The two lived in essentially the same neighborhood at the time, and
McCaw, a former WEHS star himself in the late 1980's, would often
challenge McLemore to games of one-on-one.
But then a funny thing happened. McLemore started to grow. As a
freshman, he sprouted six inches to 6-foot-2 and the Trojans coaching
staff planted him underneath the basket. Another year added three more
inches to McLemore's frame, and the 6-foot-5 sophomore spent his first
year of varsity play as a power forward as well.
But McCaw knew what his alma mater had in McLemore; not a quick,
undersized forward, but a wing with prototypical size and elite-level
So when he returned to WEHS in October, this time as the basketball
team's head coach, one of his first acts was to suggest a little switch
to his star player.
"I was excited about it," McLemore said, of the transition from post to
guard. "I thought it would help me in the long run to become a better
That's when the real work began. Countless hours were spent in the gym
on Saturdays and Sundays with McCaw, learning how to read the floor,
how to set up teammates, how to get off his shot against a variety of
It wasn't uncommon, McCaw said, for McLemore to hoist 1,000 shots
during the course of a weekend, everything from dribble-drives to
"He was really embracing the transition," he said. "He never once
questioned or was hesitant about doing those extra workouts. He kind of
just took to it."
And the results? Well, they sort of speak for themselves. As a recruit,
McLemore exploded onto the scene during the 2009-2010 season, averaging
28 points, 13 rebounds and six assists per game.
As word of his play spread, more and more high major programs began
taking notice. The likes of Missouri's Mike Anderson and Illinois'
Bruce Weber stopped by to take in games, as did assistant coaches from
Kansas and a number of other schools.
As McLemore's coach, McCaw wasn't terribly surprised by all of the
attention. That's because to his mind, the junior is pound-for-pound
the most complete player to ever come through the St. Louis area, and
it's about more than just his physical tools and statistics.
"He's just a complete kid," he said. "His demeanor, he doesn't complain
about the officiating. He gets fouled, he gets bumped, and he just
continues to move forward."
Of course, McLemore's reaction to the parade of coaches marching
through the WEHS was more along the lines of what one might expect.
"I was really surprised," he said. " I never thought it would happen so
fast like this."
While it's still early in the recruiting process, McLemore has had time
to compile a list of tentative favorites. The Kansas Jayhawks currently
sit atop that list, and are joined by Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois and
What makes the Jayhawks stand out from among the crowd?
"I like how they play," he said. "I like the guard play, how they get
around the basket and up and down the floor."
With Missouri recently extending him an offer, it is expected many more
will follow down the line – assuming McLemore can straighten out a few
academic issues. Wellston-Eskridge will close its doors for good at the
end of the current academic year, and McLemore is on the hunt for
It's not the best athletic opportunity they're searching for, he said,
but rather the one best-suited to helping him academically.
There may be an adjustment period, McCaw said, but in recent months
he's worked to help McLemore develop the discipline necessary to
succeed in the classroom.
Ultimately, both believe he'll get the job done.
"(Recently) he's been pretty much forced to go to class, be a student,
apply himself and try to get prepared to move forward," McCaw said.
Jayhawks Sit Atop McLemore's List
Phog.net Top Stories
Big 12 Recruiting Notebook (9/29/16)News, notes and recruiting scoop out of the Big 12...
Scout Football8:47 AM
Big 12 Football Roundup: Week 3 Top StoriesAll you need to know about Big 12 teams leading into Week Three of the college football season.
Big 12 Recruiting Notebook (9/15/16)News, notes and recruiting scoop out of the Big 12...
Scout's Inside Recruiting ScoopSep. 14 -- What's the latest on the top recruits in the country? Scout's basketball recruiting team -- Evan Daniels, Brian Snow and Josh Gershon -- break down the latest, including…
Bruin Report Online09/14/2016