Shawnee St. Louis Eagles shooting guard Ben McLemore brought the basketball behind his head and prepared to attempt one of his epic one-handed dunks in the closing minutes of an 81-73 KC Prep Invitational victory over Tennessee’s Travellers on Thursday at Okun Fieldhouse.
“I was trying to get another,” McLemore, a 6-foot-5, 185-pound senior blue-chipper said with a smile.
He was referring to “another” dunk sure to rock the summer basketball circuit — like the one he put down in Tuesday’s Under 17 AAU Super Showcase final against Each 1/Teach 1 in Orlando, Fla.
That dunk — he hit the baseline and finished with his right hand — was so special it ranked as ESPN’s Top Ten Play of the Day on Tuesday night’s SportsCenter.
This one? McLemore was hacked so hard by a Tennessee Traveler he never made it to the goal.
“Yes, I got to see it on TV, the same day. It was nice. It was payback because I’ve had dunks on me,” McLemore, Rivals.com’s No. 21-ranked player in the Class of 2011, said of Tuesday’s gem.
“Yes sir,” he added, asked if it was the top individual moment in his young hoops career. “I’ve never seen one of my dunks make ESPN. Just making ESPN is exciting.”
McLemore — he has a recruiting list of KU, Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Kansas State, Purdue, Tennessee and others — had three dunks, as well as a soft tip-in of a lob pass en route to 21 points in the Eagles’ victory Thursday.
“It was one of the best dunks I’ve seen so far,” Eagles’ coach Erwin Claggett said of Tuesday’s masterpiece.
“They (Eagles players) were excited about it, but they were still thinking about the game. We fought real hard to get to the championship game and didn’t get it done (in 78-60 loss in Super Showcase final). They were down about that, but excited about the dunk.”
McLemore — he’s enrolled at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., for his senior year following the closing of his previous school, St. Louis Eskridge High — is the second-highest rated player on the Eagles’ roster. Brad Beal, a 6-3 guard from St. Louis Chaminade High, who has committed to Florida, is No. 6 overall.
Beal scored 17 points versus the Travellers after totaling 30 to McLemore’s 12 earlier in the day in a 62-60 win against Brandon Bass AAU.
“They are two guys who play the game the right way,” Claggett said. “When they are open, they pass it. If they’ve got the opportunity to take their shot, they take it. When you’ve got kids like that, that don’t have any egos or hidden agendas and they just want to win and play together and play the right way, it’s easy.”
McLemore still is getting used to playing the perimeter. He manned the post last season at his tiny St. Louis high school.
“He is having to make some adjustments now playing the level of basketball he’s been playing in the summer,” Claggett said. “Once he figures that out, playing hard every play and not taking plays off and being consistent, the sky is the limit for him.”
McLemore is definitely enthused about being able to roam all over the court instead of just the paint.
“I used to play center when I was little and stuff,” he said. “When I started growing up, I was like, ‘I am not a center. I’m a guard. I’m supposed to be out there on the wing with other guards.’ I’m learning a lot.”
He exhibits a soft touch on deep jumpers as well as free throws.
“I’ve been practicing every day with my coach and after practice with my coach,” McLemore said. “I’ll go (to gym) over the weekend and shoot free throws.”
McLemore will be headed to Oak Hill Academy in late August to begin the 2010-11 school year. He isn’t sure if he’ll announce his college choice before starting school.
“I have not made my decision yet,” said McLemore, who several times this summer has listed KU as his leader. On Thursday he did not designate a leader, however.
“Me and my mom are going to sit down and talk about it, take it all in. Kansas is one of the schools I love the most,” he said.
Beal rumors continue
Rumors on the AAU circuit persist that Eagles guard Beal may ultimately decommit from Florida. He’s said this summer that he remains committed to coach Billy Donovan’s Gators. Donovan has been a fixture at Eagles games during the July evaluation period. ... KU coach Bill Self and assistant Danny Manning watched games of McLemore and Wichita Heights forward Perry Ellis on Thursday. Ellis topped the 20-point mark in a Pray and Play Players game Thursday night despite some sore knees. Memphis coach Josh Pastner and Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel were on hand as well as assistants from Kansas State, Stanford, Kentucky and other schools.