This was no revelation for Lee’s Summit boys basketball coach Blake Little. He had seen Will Eames scorch the nets from long range before.
But for anyone who had only seen Eames play in a varsity high school game, it might have been.
Eames dazzled the crowd Dec. 2 at Liberty High School for the 810 Varsity Tipoff Classic by hitting six consecutive three-pointers during the third quarter of the Tigers’ season-opening 82-54 victory over Shawnee Mission North. The 6-foot-4 senior forward finished with 31 points and stretched the floor with a range he had never displayed before.
Not in a Tigers uniform, anyway.
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“Will’s been a great shooter in the summer, he’s been a great shooter in the preseason, he’s been a great shooter in the offseason,” Little said. “He’s never done it in an actual varsity game with the lights on, so for him it was huge just to see him get a few go in.”
The first one went in from the baseline just one minute into the third quarter. He swished another one from the same spot and two more from near the top of the key. Lee’s Summit was already up 40-27 by halftime, and his personal 12-0 run helped stretch that lead to 56-33 midway through the period.
“I hit the first one, and then I got another open look,” said Eames, who said he had a similar streak during an AAU game last summer. “And when I hit the second one I was like, ‘All right, here we go’ and they kept falling.”
Eames swished two more back-to-back threes later in the quarter as the Tigers continued to pull away. Counting the one he made at the end of the second period, Eames made seven in a row after missing his first two attempts.
“That was a very Drew Lock-esque 31,” Little said. “He was just making it rain.”
Much like Lock — a former two-sport star from Lee’s Summit, who is currently the starting quarterback at Missouri — Little sees Eames becoming a big man with some range. He didn’t completely fit that role last season, which was his first as a regular in the varsity lineup, but Little didn’t expect him to right away.
“I thought he was going to struggle as a junior but his senior year he would be our best player regardless of the lineup we threw out there,” Little said. “I thought he was going to be a really, really good player. It just took some time to get there.”
Having Eames as an outside threat is an additional and important bonus for a Lee’s Summit team that will once again be guard-driven and small. It could open up driving lanes for other proven scorers, of which the Tigers have plenty.
Deron McDaniel, a senior transfer from O’Hara, poured in 23 points with two three-pointers against SM North. Senior guard Seth Romi also nailed a three and finished with nine points.
“This is a team where everyone on the floor can shoot,” Eames said. “When we can do that, we can space the floor and we’re hard to guard.”
Lee’s Summit looked tight early against SM North, falling behind 12-11 after the first quarter and 16-13 early in the second. When the Tigers loosened up, their full-court pressure started forcing turnovers, which fueled a 17-5 run of transition baskets.
McDaniel had six points and Eames scored four as the Tigers ran out to a 28-19 lead.
That pressure forced SM North into 26 turnovers and helped ignite back-to-back 29-point quarters.
“We’ve always liked to get up and press full court,” Little said. “This group I think really gets it and wants to. We’ve got a really good lineup to do that, and they seem to have really bought into it.”
Little doesn’t expect Eames to score 31 every night — and he doesn’t want him to. Ideally, the Tigers will spread the points around, but sometimes you’ve got to find the hot hand.
“It’s super fun, especially when you’re going out there and teammates are finding you and they’re hitting shots, too,” Eames said. “That’s when basketball’s the most fun.”