It’s been a whirlwind afternoon here at the KSR compound, as we’ve gone from the highest of highs when Isaiah Briscoe announced he is returning to the most befuddled of befuddled when Marcus Lee announced he will withdraw from the NBA Draft, but transfer to another school. Lee’s decision is surprising and confusing for many reasons, so let’s try to make some sense out of it.
A month ago, Lee’s brother called transfer rumors a “slap in the face”
The strangest part of Lee’s announcement? A month ago, his brother, Bryan Lee, told Kyle Tucker that transfer rumors were “baffling” and “a slap in the face”:
“There’s whispers every year, just because people feel like they know what’s better for him,” his older brother Bryan Lee told The Courier-Journal on Tuesday. “But as he’s shown each year, he’s completely loyal to Kentucky. It’s kind of baffling that anybody would question that, considering what he’s done for the school and the impact he’s had on that community.
“It’s almost kind of a slap in the face to him that anyone would even question that, considering what he’s sacrificed.”
Two weeks ago, Lee ruled out a transfer at the NBA Draft Combine
Marcus Lee said he never considered graduating and transferring to play his final year elsewhere. It was always return to UK or enter draft.
— WKYT Sports (@wkytsports) May 13, 2016
So, what happened to change his mind?
The NBA Draft Combine was an eye opener
Analysts said Lee turned in the worst performance at the draft combine, and in his remarks about the transfer today, John Calipari said Lee cited his combine experience as a reason he needs to head elsewhere to regroup.
“We talked it through together and discussed the team next season, which he said had no bearing on his decision. I also told him he was a semester away from graduating. With that said, he was still adamant that, after the combine experience, a year off and regrouping would be the best thing.”
I’m starting to think the combine showed Lee that he had a LOT of work to do on his game if he wanted to make it to the NBA, so much so that one year at Kentucky on a loaded roster might not be enough, making the sacrifice to sit out a year and play elsewhere worth it.
What impact did a loaded roster have?
According to Calipari, Lee said next year’s roster had no bearing on his decision to leave, but, not counting Lee, UK will have six players 6’9″ or taller on next year’s team, including players who are pretty similar to Lee in Sacha Killeya-Jones and Wenyen Gabriel. While, at a glance, this seems like an obvious reason Lee would transfer, why did his brother sound so adamant about Lee not transferring a month ago? Nothing has changed since then. In fact, you could argue that frontcourt situation looks better for Lee since Marques Bolden is going to Duke; however, Lee wants the opportunity to showcase his talents, which could be hard to do in UK’s forest of giants.
He just wanted a fresh start
Since this whole draft process began, it just felt like Lee wanted to leave. From aligning himself with Jeff Goodman to his insistence on going through the entire process despite poor feedback, Lee clearly was ready to part ways with Kentucky, one way or another. And he is, even if that decision makes little sense to most of us. Lee told Calipari he wants to transfer to a school out west to be closer to his family and take a year off and regroup. Sitting out a year when you only have a semester’s worth of classes to go at UK seems preposterous, but Lee may need that year to change his body and make another run at the league. Maybe the draft combine was just that bad.
Regardless, UK is losing one of the coolest kids of the Calipari era, which, selfishly, really sucks. Best of luck, Marcus.