Game Time, Lee Time

Photo by Vicotria Graff | contributing Photographer

Photo by Vicotria Graff | contributing Photographer

Marcus Lee is finally getting his chance to play significant minutes at UK. The 6-foot-9 junior forward has shown flashes of greatness during his first two seasons in Lexington but has never been able to earn consistent minutes. He saved the day – with Willie Cauley-Stein sidelined by a foot injury, getting the start and scoring 10 points to go with eight rebounds and two blocks in the Cats Elite Eight win over Michigan in 2014. Last season, Lee played in all 39 games but only averaged 10.9 minutes per contest. His career-high of 17 points came in his first college game, the 2013-14 season opener against UNC-Asheville.

When you hear fans and the media say that this could be your year, what do you think that means?
I guess when they say that it could be my year, I see it as it’s my year to lead. It’s my year to get this team together and find a way for us to blend together and do the best that we can. Basketball isn’t played by one guy. I’ve been here with Alex [Poythress], and we know how to win – we know to get it done here.

How frustrating has it been to sit on the bench and wait your turn?
It is frustrating, but being here, you’re enjoying it because you’re enjoying what’s happening. You are so involved with your team that it doesn’t matter.

You never thought about leaving?
No, my parents or brother would call me and say, “I guess you’re leaving again.” They would send me an article and we’d just start laughing about it because it never really crossed our mind – ever.

How much weight have you put on since you got here?
I think total weight since I got here has been from 201 to about 225. I’m trying to get to 235.

How different did you feel after your freshman year versus after your sophomore year?
One we finished at the Final Four, and one we finished at the National Championship. My freshman year at the end, we kind of knew how it felt to be at the place we wanted to be. We knew we wanted to be there, and then falling short again last year, it kind of hurt because we knew that’s where we wanted to be and we didn’t make it there.

What has impressed you about the freshmen?
What really stands out is that they’re very humble. They love being in the gym. They love just being with us. They don’t mind taking criticism. If me, Alex or one of our returning players say something about how to do something better, they’re quick to try to fix it or try to adjust it because they know that we know what’s going to happen during the season. We know how Cal is going to want to play.

How much have you talked to Skal about his life before he came to the United States?
He talks about it every now and then. I think it’s amazing, I love it when he talks about it because for us, we get to learn new things.

You’ve played with so many guys who are in the NBA already. What about Skal makes you think he fits into the group?
I see that in each one of our players this year. They all like competing. Some people play just to play, but this freshman class has that competitive edge and just loves playing with each other.

What’s different about Alex now that he’s gone through that injury last season?
You get to see him go through something that normal people don’t go through. Most people go through that and you see them get down about themselves and maybe think about quitting. But you never saw that in his eyes. He always was excited about what we were doing as a team.

Which of your former teammates who are now in the NBA do you talk to the most?
I still talk to Karl [Towns] and Dakari [Johnson] all the time. VT