NORTH NATOMAS – Despite many surprises in the 2013 NBA Draft, it’s a fact that Ben McLemore will start the new era of the Sacramento Kings. A 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Kansas, McLemore was taken by the Kings with the No. 7 pick.
McLemore averaged 15.9 points and 5.2 rebounds as a freshman for the Jayhawks and is known as a knock-down shooter with multiple athletic skills. He was a Second Team All-American and made the Big-12 All-Rookie Team and named a First Team honoree. McLemore shot 49.5 percent from the field and 42 percent from beyond the arc in Big 12 play.
Sacramento Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive, General Manager Pete D’Alessandro, and coach Mike Malone were elated at getting McLemore at the seventh spot. McLemore was one of the top players that did workout for the Kings.
“Ben McLemore…he was our dream choice from the get go,” Ranadive said. “In fact, our GM hear told us he had a hunch we would get him. We all laughed at him and said, “what have you been smoking?’ But I did say that seven was my lucky number. So sure enough we got that guy we all dreamed about.”
D’Alessandro’s three-year-old daughter Kate gave him a plastic “No. 1” toy, which he took to heart. The McLemore pick speaks volume for the first year GM.
“We got the Sacramento Kings first pick in the draft,” D’Alessandro said. “It’s a special night and Ben is a special player. And that second pick, Ray McCallum is one of the classiest guy you ever want to meet.”
The Kings picked 6-1 guard Ray McCallum out of the University of Detroit with their 36th pick in the second round. McCallum is an early entry candidate for the draft. He led the Titans with 18.7 points, 4.2 assists, and 1.9 steals per game in his junior year.
McLemore was born on Feb. 11, 1993, in St. Louis, Mo., and attended Wellston High School and Christian Life Center in Texas. He sat out his first year at Kansas as a partial academic qualifier, but made the Big 12 Honor Roll with a grade-point-average of 3.0.
McLemore was reported to have economic hardships during his upbringings where access to food and hot water was minimal. With determination, he was a five-star recruit ranked No. 17 nationally by Rivals.com coming out of high school.
During the draft, Miami Heat All-Star LeBron James tweeted that teams were avoiding McLemore. He was pegged to go much higher up the chain. A fan favorite at Kansas, McLemore said he doesn’t mind coming to the city of Sacramento with an “alpha dog” mentality.
“I definitely can say I come in with a chip on my shoulder,” McLemore said after knowing Sacramento was his destination. “I want to come in and show everybody what I can do because on the court I know what I can do. I know I’m going to go in there and work hard.”
During the draft, before the Kings’ turn to pick, Miami Heat All-Star LeBron James tweeted that teams were avoiding the dynamic guard from Kansas. McLemore said he didn’t mind falling into the Kings’ hands at No. 7 when some draft boards had him going high as No. 2.
“I am not that really surprised,” he said. “But at the same time, Sacramento picked me and I have an opportunity to be a part of the Sacramento family. I am not disappointed at all and I’m happy where I am at.”
Ironically, if not significantly, the Kings chose Thomas Robinson from Kansas last year with the No. 5 pick. But ended up trading the undersized power forward to the Houston Rockets 51 games into his rookie season. McLemore had talked with Robinson during his short stint with the Kings and he offered the young guard some hardnose advice about the NBA.
“He said it’s not going to be easy…don’t think that,” McLemore said of his and Robinson’s conversation. “He said you are going to have to work hard.”
McCallum was born June 12, 1991 in Madison, Wisconsin and player at former Kings’ player Chris Weber’s Country Day High School in Detroit. He played under his father Ray McCallum Sr. at the University of Detroit.
With the drafting of McLemore and McCallum, the Kings are stocked at the guard position. The Kings made Tyreke Evans a qualifying offer reported at $6.9 million earlier this week. But then there is Isaiah Thomas, Jimmer Fredette, and Marcus Thornton in the mix as well.
Toney Douglas is also a free agent. Roster moves are expected, though the new draftees appear to be the ones the new regime wants to usher into the future and change the culture of losing. The rookies are expected to be in Sacramento on Saturday.
“The one thing that I can say very confidently is that we got better today by the two young men we drafted,” Malone said. “As we told both of those guys, Ben and Ray on the phone, we are thrilled to have you and you are part of our family. More importantly, we can’t wait to get them on the court. They will help us immediately on the court and in that locker room.”
The Cleveland Cavaliers had the first pick in the draft and surprisingly chose Anthony Bennett from UNLV. Bennett is a 6-8, 220-pounds power forward who averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds as a freshman for the Running Rebels. He is the highest draft player from Canada.
Victor Oladipo from Indiana was chosen second by the Orlando Magic. He was an Associated Press All-American pick as a junior and Sporting News Player of the Year. Oladipo is 6-5 and 214 pounds. He averaged 13.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.2 steals for the Hoosiers.
The Washington Wizards picked Otto Porter Jr. from Georgetown with the third pick. Potter is 6-8 and 205 pounds. He was the Big East Player of the Year and ab AP First Team All-American as a sophomore. He averaged 16.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.8 steals last season.
Indiana’s Cody Zeller, the fourth pick, went to front-line depraved Charlotte Hornets. Zeller, who already has a brother (Tyler, Cleveland Cavaliers) in the NBA, is 7-0 and 240 pounds. He averaged 16.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks for the Hoosiers.
The Phoenix Suns went with 7-1 center Alex Len from Maryland. Len only averaged 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, but had 2.1 blocks per game. Nerlens Noel, who expected to go at No. 1 in the draft, was picked No. 6 by the New Orleans Pelicans. Noel was later traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for All-Star guard Jrue Holiday. Noel will be out until December with a torn ACL.
At No. 8, Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope went to Detroit followed by Michigan’s Trey Burke’s selection to Minnesota at No. 9. Burke was immediately traded to the Utah Jazz for the Timberwolves’ No. 14 and No. 21st picks.
By Antonio R. Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer