Years after being cut from her seventh-grade basketball team, Lesley McCaslin said she's thrilled to have an opportunity to cover one of the top NBA teams, the Oklahoma City Thunder, as its sideline reporter.
“I was so bad, the coach told me I could be a manager,” McCaslin said. “And my tennis coach said, ‘No, you better just come back to tennis.' I've always loved basketball, but I was never very good at it.”
Although basketball didn't work out for her growing up in Lubbock, Texas, she excelled at cheerleading. As a senior at Monterey High School, she helped Texas Tech win the national cheerleading championship as a part-time student. After enrolling at the University of Texas, she joined the pom squad.
McCaslin started out as a theater major at UT, but changed her mind and went into broadcasting.
“I didn't think I wanted to act,” she said. “I'd rather be in sports.”
After graduating in 2005, she landed her first TV job as the weekend sports anchor and reporter for an Abilene TV station. A couple of years later, she returned to Austin and spent four years covering the Longhorns for cable channel News 8.
“What I like to say is while I was there, I got to cover the College World Series, the Fiesta Bowl, the (BCS) national championship, an Elite Eight run. After I left, things changed,” she said, with a chuckle. “I like to think I was good luck.”
McCaslin joined Fox Sports Southwest as a freelancer, used in a variety of anchoring and reporting roles in covering the Rangers, Mavericks and Stars, hosting college football preview shows and as a sideline reporter.
Thunder management was familiar with her work when its sideline position opened in the offseason after Kelly Crull departed.
“What an amazing team,” McCaslin said. “I came here and met literally everyone in the organization before I accepted the job. It was really neat for me. They all wanted an input from (general manager) Sam Presti on down.”
Her transition to the Thunder job was eased by having already worked with many of the FSN producers who handle Thunder telecasts. And Oklahoma City, she said, feels a lot like her hometown of Lubbock, only bigger.
“The city and the organization, that feels very much like a small town,” she said. “Everyone has been very friendly. I love working with Brian (Davis) and Grant (Long). I could tell that was going to work from the first game. They have been very welcoming. It's been a blast. I cannot believe the regular season is over. I feel like I'm still learning and getting to know everyone.”
McCaslin has turned in a solid performance, asking pertinent questions of players and coaches and supplying knowledgeable reports with the poise of a veteran reporter.
She said she has enjoyed getting to make most of the Thunder road trips. Combined with her college football sideline work last fall, she said she has visited 12 new cities this school year.
“They've all made fun of me because as soon as we get there off the plane, I'm just excited. I'm ready to go for a run,” said McCaslin, who said she has run three or four half-marathons. “I want to see everything.”
During the offseason, she will return to Dallas to be with her husband, Ben McCaslin, a former lower-level pro golfer who sells real estate. They plan to take a European cruise in August on her first trip overseas.
“I can't believe that I got to come in at a season like this,” McCaslin said, “to get to work with this kind of group and go to games.”