Playing for the boys basketball team during middle school and his freshman season in high school was a frustrating experience for now Truman junior Kaimen Lennox.
He got very little playing time in eighth and ninth grade, and didn’t even start for the junior varsity team until late into his freshman year.
“They were sleeping on me,” Lennox said.
But things have changed drastically for Lennox in the last two years.
He’s emerged as a star player for the Patriots and helped turn around a program that’s struggled in recent years.
Third-seeded Truman is 13-12 going into today’s Class 5 District 14 semifinal against No. 2 Raytown. The Patriots have more wins than they had in the past two years combined (six) and have their best record since the 2012-13 season (15-10).
Lennox, who started his sophomore season, has been a big part of that. Through 25 games, he’s averaged 18.1 points per game on 50-percent shooting. He also leads the team in assists with 2.9 per game and has averaged 1.7 steals per game.
Truman head coach Rod Briggs calls Lennox “a late bloomer.” The junior said he was 5-foot-9 in eighth grade, but he’s now 6-2. He’s attributed some of his recent success to his growth spurt.
“I just hit that growth spurt and hit the weight room, and it all started to pull together and click,” Lennox said.
Added Briggs: “You could tell he was going to be a good player, he just had to grow. You could tell he had a passion for basketball and really wanted to be good. When we ran on the track, he would be one of the first ones done.”
When Lennox was playing in middle school, he played primarily as a shooting guard – before he broke his wrist. He then decided to make the transition to point guard, and it’s worked out for him.
This season he’s shown the ability to get to the rim consistently and push the ball in transition. Some of his fast-break points even came via dunks.
“He’s definitely a lot more athletic now,” Truman junior guard Cam Robins said. “In eighth grade, I felt bad for him that he didn’t play that much. Now, in high school, he’s taller and more athletic. Other team’s haven’t been able to stop him.”
Added Lennox: “My first dunk was last year during a summer camp. Now, I can put more power into it and it’s easy.”
And part of the reason for his evolution was the influence of his family. His father, A.B. Lennox, is the girls basketball coach at Van Horn; and his aunt, Betty Lennox, was the former girls basketball coach for the Falcons and played in the WNBA for 12 years, earning Rookie of the Year and WNBA Finals MVP honors.
“They’ve paved the way for me,” Lennox said. “I just had to listen to them and follow in their footsteps. They really just handed everything down to me – all the basics and the skills.
“During my freshman year, I was passive. (A.B.) told me to be aggressive. And ever since then I have been aggressive.”
And other teams have taken notice of Lennox’s advanced skills, as opponents often game-plan to stop the junior.
“Defenses are geared to stop him and he’s found ways to help the team win in other ways besides scoring,” Briggs said. “He had eight assists in a win against Lee’s Summit. He’s learning to do other things besides scoring. The next step for Kaimen is to step up in more of a leadership role and be more vocal and help keep teammates accountable.
“Other teams put their best defender on him and don’t help off him. He’s going against great athletes every night.”
And he’s the one Briggs wants to shoot when the game is on the line down the stretch. Lennox did that in a 49-48 win against Blue Springs earlier this season when he made the game-winning 3-pointer with 7.2 seconds left.
“We have several guys we’d love to have the ball in their hands late in the game,” Briggs said. “Obviously, he’s one of them. He’s shown he can make those clutch shots.”
And Lennox’s numbers and clutch play is a reason Briggs believes the junior could earn some special honors at season’s end.
“I wouldn’t discount him getting all-state honors this season, averaging 18 points a game and shooting 50 percent from the field,” Briggs said. “That’s pretty consistent. And that fact that he’s diverse and has a good amount of assists, I think he’ll get some honors. I don’t think it will be first team, but he will definitely get some mention for sure.”