Ben McLemore says he 'could fit perfectly' with the Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic fans watched their TVs intently as the NBA Draft Lottery took place last week. Pulses quickened as the league's deputy commissioner, Adam Silver, rattled off team names one by one.
Just imagine how Ben McLemore felt. McLemore, a shooting guard from the University of Kansas, knew he was watching his future unfold. Butterflies swirled inside his stomach.
"I was thinking, 'Oh, man, this is crazy that I'm watching to see what team I might end up with,' " McLemore told the Orlando Sentinel during a phone interview Thursday afternoon.
"I was kind of in shock, like, 'Wow, these are one of the teams that I'm going to end up with, and I'm going to have an opportunity to play in the NBA and start my journey.' I had little chills when it first came on. I was just wondering who was going to get what pick. It definitely was a good experience. Everybody around me was happy. I was happy with the teams that got big picks."
One of those teams is the Orlando Magic. The Magic won the second overall pick in the June 27 draft.
If the Cleveland Cavaliers use the first pick to select University of Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, then the Magic would be able to pick McLemore, whom many experts regard as the best shooter in the draft and one of the top overall prospects.
"The Orlando Magic, I think that's a great program," McLemore said. "I think I could fit perfectly in that system and that organization and help that team in different kinds of ways."
On May 16, McLemore met with Magic GM Rob Hennigan, assistant GMs Scott Perry and Matt Lloyd and coach Jacque Vaughn during the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.
That 30-minute session served as a get-to-know-you meeting.
McLemore said he "can't wait" to visit Orlando, work out individually for the Magic and have additional conversations with Magic officials.
He said a specific date hasn't been set up yet, but it will occur.
McLemore already feels a kinship with Vaughn, who attended Kansas and played four seasons for the Jayhawks during the mid-1990s.
"It was great just walking in [during that May 16 meeting] and just seeing that face and seeing that connection as soon as we saw each other," McLemore recalled. "Big smiles came on our faces. He was great."
This year's draft is considered a weak one at the top — with no single player regarded as a sure bet to become a perennial NBA All-Star.
Still, talent evaluators frequently compare McLemore to 10-time All-Star Ray Allen because of their shooting ability. And ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas ranked McLemore as the draft's top prospect despite concerns McLemore wasn't assertive enough in college.
The Magic, who also own the 51st overall pick, will invite several dozen prospects to Central Florida for workouts and interviews over the next few weeks. The group almost certainly will include Noel, Georgetown small forward Otto Porter Jr., Michigan point guard Trey Burke and Indiana shooting guard Victor Oladipo.
McLemore is training in the Los Angeles area with former NBA point guard Pooh Richardson, the director of basketball operations at Rival Sports Group, a sports management company.
"I'm going to be in the gym every day, getting ready and getting prepared," McLemore said. "I think it's going to be great."