Truman senior Kaimen Lennox acknowledged that he hasn’t been heavily recruited by NCAA Division I schools because of his lack of height.
The dynamic 6-foot-2 combo guard uses that as fuel any time he steps on the court.
It certainly looked that way against Blue Springs on Saturday. He poured in a game-high 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting in a 55-52 win Saturday at the Missouri Hall of Fame Basketball Classic at Notre Dame de Sion High School.
Lennox did it all. He made threes, hit fade away jump shots, exploded to the rim, found ways to score in the paint even when having his shot contested by taller players, passed it to the open man and played solid defense.
“I love dunking,” Lennox said. “I feel like me being athletic and getting up above bigger guys. That’s what brings me to the schools (who are recruiting him), seeing athleticism from a short person like me.
“I see a lot of tall people who have no type of skill that I have walk on and stuff like that. It pushes me. It’s the fuel to my fire.”
Prephoops.com named Lennox as one of the 10 best senior combo guards in the nation that has yet to commit to a school. Truman head coach Rod Briggs thinks that could change as the season moves along.
“He’s got UMKC recruiting him and lots of MIAA (Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association) teams recruiting him,” Briggs said. “There’s a lot of junior colleges that would think it’s an absolute steal to get him. So he’s got some opportunities. We hope a few Division I’s will come in to the picture.”
And he’s putting on spectacular performances despite having a bad ankle and a bad hip, according to Briggs.
“Kaimen is too good. It’s unfair honestly,” Truman senior Macio Moananu said. “(Division I) schools will be calling him soon. They will have to.”
Blue Springs coach Adam Jones took notice of Lennox’s skills.
“He’s a spectacular player. He’s impressive to watch,” Jones said. “Accepting a challenge like (guarding Lennox) is tough to do.”
While Lennox put on a show, Moananu might have made the most impressive and most important play of the game. Truman led 53-52 with just under 30 seconds left. Blue Springs (10-6) had the ball and a chance to take the lead.
Moananu anticipated pass from Blue Springs guard Kyle Bruce and got in the passing lane to make the steal. He raced to the other side of the court and threw down a thunderous dunk over Cooper Willich to extend Truman’s lead to three with 14 seconds left.
“Words can’t describe how big a play that was,” Briggs said. “To finish with authority like that was absolutely amazing.”
Added Lennox: “(Moananu) could go D-I too if he could do that every time. Today he finally did it.”
Bruce missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer on the other end and sophomore Braden Appelhans got the rebound and threw up a desperation heave at the buzzer, but his shot hit back iron and fell harmlessly to the floor.
The Patriots led 18-10 after a first quarter in which Lennox threw down two fast-break dunks. Truman (13-5) led by as many as 10 in the second period before a Blue Springs 14-6 run, spearheaded by six points from Bruce, helped the Wildcats cut the deficit to 26-24 at halftime.
Blue Springs took a five-point lead on three occasions in the third quarter. It was led by Appelhans, who exploded for 11 points in the period as the Wildcats stormed back to take a 42-35 advantage going into the final quarter.
Truman kept chipping away at the lead in the fourth and a trio of free throws from Lennox cut the Blue Springs advantage to 50-48 midway through the quarter. As part of an 8-0 run Truman senior forward Jeilel Phillips got a putback layup that put the Patriots up for good at 51-50.
Lennox got his third steal of the game on Blue Springs’ next possession, which eventually led to a pair of free throws for guard Cam Robbins, making it 53-50. A basket from Blue Springs Ikenna Ezeogu cut it to 53-52 with 33 seconds left. Phillips missed the front end of a one-and-one to give the Wildcats a chance.
That’s when Moananu made the play of the game.
“We picked up our intensity (in the third quarter) and got a pretty good lead there,” said Jones, whose team beat rival Blue Springs South 54-52 Friday night. “But turnovers have been killing us all year. And it’s not the press that’s doing it, it’s us not making smart decisions with the ball and standing and watching.”
For Blue Springs, Appelhans led the team with 16 points and Ezeogu and Bruce each had 13.
Sam Billimon was the other Patriot in double figures with 11 points. Phillips finished with nine.