Jayhawks Sit Atop McLemore's List

St. Louis SG Ben McLemore has seen his size, his game, and now his recruitment blow up. The Jayhawks appear to be very solid with him, right now. More, inside.

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 athleticism.

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 basketball player."

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 defenses.

It wasn't uncommon, McCaw said, for McLemore to hoist 1,000 shots during the course of a weekend, everything from dribble-drives to long-range bombs.

"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 Louisville.

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 another school.

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.

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