McLemore Vying for No. 1 Spot in Draft

By Durando, Stu | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

McLemore Vying for No. 1 Spot in Draft


Durando, Stu, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


CHICAGO * As Ben McLemore recalls the moment, he and his Wellston High teammates were en route to the 2010 Missouri state basketball tournament when news was delivered that they were about to become players without a home.

The school was being shuttered by the state board of education, leaving students in limbo, the first option being to join a merger with Normandy.

In reality, the announcement came months earlier. But McLemore's recollection of being told on the eve of the state semifinals packs more drama, especially now that he is involved in a battle to become the NBA's No. 1 draft pick.

The 6-foot-5 guard was a rising star who was trying to land a Division I scholarship, and suddenly his immediate future was uncertain.

"They told us we weren't going to have a high school to go to and I was thinking, 'Where am I going to finish my career?' " McLemore said.

The process took him to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, Christian Life Center in Texas and finally to Kansas, where he sat out his first season. And then his life took its most significant turn as an All-American was born.

McLemore was surrounded by poverty as a youth, saw his older brother go to prison and ultimately had to find his way to complete high school.

The payoff: He could become the first St. Louis player to be picked No. 1 in the NBA draft, a battle that most consider to be between McLemore and Kentucky's Nerlens Noel.

Or, maybe there is a greater payoff.

"Hopefully, when everything settles down and I get that first check, I'll be able to take care of my mom, my brother and my sisters," he said. "That's the main thing. The focus has been on taking care of the people around my circle."

McLemore hopes to have his younger brother, Kevin, live with him wherever he might land. His mother, he figures, will be much harder to lure out of St. Louis.

But McLemore is preparing after averaging 15.9 points and 5.2 rebounds and shooting 49.5 percent as a freshman for the Jayhawks.

Although he was not in St. Louis as a high school senior, he was part of a stellar area 2011 senior class that featured Washington Wizards rookie Brad Beal (Chaminade), the consensus No. 4 player in the country that year as well as Arkansas' BJ Young (McCluer North) at No. 20 and McLemore at No. 41. Georgetown's Otto Porter Jr., who was born in St. Louis but played at Scott County Central High in Sikeston, was No. 34.

"Me, Ben and Brad always had a rivalry growing up, and we knew each other really well," Young said. "Other people would say, 'Who is this guy? …

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