NORTH NATOMAS — At this point in his life, hopefully Ben McLemore should not have to worry about where his next meal is coming from. After the Sacramento Kings made him their No. 7 pick in the first round of the NBA Draft last week, McLemore could, if he desire, buy other unfortunate families a surplus of full-course dinners as well as his own family.
McLemore and the Kings’ second-round pick Ray McCallum Jr. were officially introduced to the local media Monday at Sleep Train Arena on Monday morning. Of course there were many questions about his slip in the draft, though McLemore’s difficult upbringing was the central point of discussions. More importantly, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard doesn’t mind talking about it, anymore.
“In the beginning, talking about my story, it was kind of hard,” McLemore said. “But now, I’m getting use to it and Ok with expressing my feelings of how I grew up. It’s life. But I feel a lot of people can learn from it.”
A native of St. Louis, it has been reported that McLemore lived in a house with as many as 10 family members and only one bed. To make matters worse, food was hard to come by. He told a national newspaper last month before the draft that he would go without eating sometimes up to two days. His family also suffered through the inability of keeping the power on during one winter season.
Despite the hardships, McLemore’s mother kept the warmth of love in the household. Practically every member of the clan tried to do their part to bring money in. McLemore and his young brother would do handyman jobs around the neighborhood to buy something cheap as Hot Pockets, USA Today reported.
But all of that is a distant memory. McLemore will make somewhere around $3 million per year under a four-year NBA rookie contract. There was no doubt that he could justify why he was leaving Kansas after a stellar freshman season with the Jayhawks. Many say he is ready for the NBA and he is doing it, for the most part, to improve his family’s lifestyle.
“Ben’s story is the stuff of legends,” Sacramento Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive said. “This is the story of the triumph of hard work over adversity. Success against all odds. This is the stuff that movies are made of. This is a young man, when he was a kid, he didn’t know where his next meal was going to come from. And he went on to become part of and shine at one of the country’s great basketball programs.”
McLemore knows all about the story of the Sacramento Kings and the issue that once surrounded the ownership. He said this is an unique position for him and McCallum to walk in to because a lot of things are starting from Ground Zero.
“It’s kind of a new era here,” McLemore said. “ A new arena we be built, finished in about three years, this is a young team, and a great organization for us two to grow in. I think we’re two players who are really going to come in and from day one to help this organization turn around and be on the positive side. I’m really happy to call myself a King and I’m excited to get this thing started. I’m ready to rock.”
Ray McCallum Jr., however, didn’t have to deal with sever economic situations as McLemore experienced. But like McLemore, the 6-foot-1 point guard did go through the emotion of suspense on draft day. McCallum sat at home watching players picked one-by-one before him. Little did he know, the Kings had him firmly on their draft radar, though the team did not ask to visit Sacramento for a workout session.
“It was a long night for me,” McCallum told The OBSERVER during the press conference that also featured Kings coach Michael Malone and General Manager Pete D’Alessandro. “But when I got the call from Pete and coach and everybody I was extremely excited. So happy to finally hear your name get called, especially to a great team, great organization, and somewhere where I knew I could grow as a player. By far, definitely, it was the longest 4 hours and 10 minutes of my life. I’ll never forget it.”
McCallum played for his father Ray McCallum Sr. at Detroit. Three years ago, he sort of shocked the college basketball world when he picked Detroit over nine top schools in the country. McCallum was a McDonald’s All-American that had the likes of UCLA on his trail. He said it’s a decision he still stands by today.
“At the end of the day, it came down to trust and who had the best interest in me,” McCallum said. “And I decided to stay home and play for my father. It’s something I don’t regret at all. To play for him for three years, it’s the greatest opportunity I had. I grew as a man (and) I grew as a player as well.”
McCallum Sr. said his son is a pure point guard and will do anything to help his team win. He expressed that his son will work hard, find a niche, and find a role within the Kings organization. Ray McCullum Jr., who helped Detroit win 20-plus games the last two years and win the Horizon League Championship, was ranked No. 24 in the country as a fourth-grade student, McCallum Sr. said.
“He has the I.Q., has a good understanding of the game, good vision as a player, and a tremendous competitor,” McCallum Sr. said. “He’s all about winning.”
By Antonio R. Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer