While Ben McLemore had on OK rookie campaign, he has acknowledged how important his growth next season will be. A summer of training will be key for that development. He also will be striving toward something else that is important in his personal growth: finishing his education.
The 6'5'' shooting guard is splitting his training time between Sacramento and Kansas this summer as he works toward his goal of obtaining a college degree. He plans to take classes at the University of Kansas, the school he left to enter the NBA draft last year, every summer until he gets his diploma. Speaking over the phone on Tuesday, McLemore shared how valuable it would be for him to finish his education and how proud it would make his mother and the rest of his family.
McLemore also discussed expanding his game at the same time this summer. Specifically, he talked earnestly about being more of a complete player.
"I don't want to just be that guy that is a spot-up shooter. I want to be an all-around player and I want to be one of the best two guards in the league," McLemore said.
At the moment, the Kings could use a complete player and a spot-up shooter. One of the things general manager Pete D'Alessandro has stressed so far this offseason is the need for better shooting, specifically three-point shooting. As a team, the Kings shot an OK, but not great, 44 percent from the field last season (18th in the league) and 33 percent from three (27th in the league). McLemore's shooting percentages from the field weren't too great in his rookie campaign – 37 percent and 32 percent from three (which placed him tied with Tony Snell of the Chicago Bulls for 42nd in the league among qualified shooting guards). He shot 49 percent from the field and 42 percent from three in college. College and the NBA are a different ballgame, of course, and so is the distance of the three-point line.
But a starting shooting guard in the NBA has to have better percentages. McLemore knows that and plans to work on it.
"I think it's going to get better ... I think I can improve and that is one of the things I want to work on," McLemore said.
He's proven he is at least headed in the right direction. As we mentioned at the end of the season, McLemore did improve his overall shooting in the last 15 games of the latest Kings campaign.
With the confidence of the organization behind him and some athletic gifts not every player in the NBA possesses, combined with a well-regarded work ethic, there is no reason why the Kansas standout can't improve enough to help fill some of the void in the shooting department for the Kings next season. (And hopefully he shows improvement on the defensive side of the ball as well.)
The kid certainly has drive, as illustrated by his push for his degree. McLemore still needs somewhere between 45 and 48 credit hours to graduate. He registers for classes next week and begins in early June. While he hasn't chosen a major yet, he sounded excited to find one that fits him best. He also has been busy in the University of Kansas gym (Allen Fieldhouse) where a member of the Kings development staff worked out with him last week.
On top of this, he has been spending time with his family and doing community work in his old Missouri neighborhood, Wellston. In all of the analysis and expectations, we sometimes lose sight of where some of these players come from. McLemore certainly hasn't forgotten. He grew up in a home that was less than 600 square feet and sometimes shared it with up to 10 relatives. On some nights when there was no hot water he would microwave water and run to pour it into the bathtub to try to take a warm bath. So yeah, where he is now – worrying about how much he can best contribute to one of the 30 teams in the NBA – is a long way removed from where he was as a kid growing up.
McLemore has been helping his high school coach's 501 (c)(3) organization that assists kids in the Wellston area, recently throwing a bowling party for kids through the organization, for example. He also plans to help raise money in Lawrence, Kansas for holiday giveaways.
Set on a foundation of family, school and basketball, McLemore expects this summer to be a major building block in his career and development as a person.
"This summer is going to be the best summer of my life," McLemore said. "I'm very excited for next season."
McLemore will join Ray McCallum and Derrick Williams on this year's Kings NBA Summer League squad. The Las Vegas Summer League begins on July 11 at the COX Pavilion and Thomas and Mack Center on the campus of the University of Nevada Las Vegas.