SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — One grew up in such poverty he had days when he wondered where he would find his next meal. The other is a coach’s son who attended the same high school as a player whose jersey is retired in the rafters.
Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum, while opposites in many ways, are now tied together in the same backcourt. The Sacramento Kings hope that will be the case for years to come.
On the day NBA free agency began, Sacramento formally introduced its draft picks Monday. The team touted both as players with high character and tremendous potential who will help build the foundation of the franchise’s “new era,” which could become even more pressing if restricted free agent guard Tyreke Evans doesn’t return.
New owner Vivek Ranadive treated both to dinner along with their friends and family Sunday night. The wealthy Silicon Valley businessman said each impressed him as much or more as a person than as a player.
McLemore’s well-chronicled rise from a depressed St. Louis neighborhood to a star at Kansas has finally reached the NBA, a place he could only imagine when he was growing up in the smallest house on Wellston Avenue.
McCallum’s background is one of the reasons new coach Mike Malone likes the point guard so much. His father, Ray McCallum, was a basketball star at Muncie Central and Ball State University and is a former Ball State head coach.
The younger McCallum was a McDonald’s All-American in high school — starring at Detroit Country Day School, where former Kings standout Chris Webber also played — who turned down offers from UCLA and Arizona to stay at home and play point guard for his father, Ray McCallum Sr., at Detroit.
“It just came down to trust and who had the best interest in me,” McCallum said.
Malone said McCallum uses his smarts and savvy — not to mention his ball-handling skills and athleticism — to make up for his 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame, which is a bit undersized by NBA standards.
The new coach even had a chance to work both players out over the weekend.