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Trying to make sense of Marcus Lee’s decision


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

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.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

27 Comments for Trying to make sense of Marcus Lee’s decision

  1. louisvillelaw22
    1:27 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

    I think what Marcus realized is that if he wants to get onto an NBA roster he has to be able to take and make shots. You get better with practice, sure, but if you don’t get to get shots up in the game you just don’t improve much.

    Going somewhere where he can spend a year in the system as a redshirt and then be a focal point of the offense actually makes a lot of sense.

    • millwooded
      2:44 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

      i was wondering why he wouldn’t redshirt at UK and work on his game here if he needs a year off to get his game together…but, after thinking it through, i think he realized even if he improved here, and the guys coming in go pro after next year, cal will bring in another stellar class, and he would be fighting for minutes again. i think he made the right decision. and you are right, he needs to be on the court getting shots, and being a focal point…hate to see the kid go, though. awesome young man

  2. Bluebros
    1:42 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

    One of the best kids that I’ve seen go through UK in a long time. Hard to ask for anyone better than Marcus. Wish him all the best and I’ll always be pulling for “00” to reach his dreams! Sad to see him transfer

  3. WatchutalkinboutWillis
    1:44 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

    You never know when a break up with a girlfriend, a sick family member, or any other number of things plays in to a decision like this. He did seem intent on leaving and that’s fine. I hope life goes well for Marcus Lee.

  4. jman3715
    1:47 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

    I don’t blame him at all if his goal is to make it in the NBA. I would have done the same thing seeing what we have coming in next year. Actually pretty mature of him to make this move considering it was probably a very difficult decision to leave his friends and team.

  5. BigBlueComingAtYou
    2:03 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

    Everyone of these kids have NBA dreams but the reality is not everyone is talented enough. Other than shot blocking or lobs, Lee just doesn’t have any game. Guys his size in the NBA can do what he does plus shoot the ball or have some kind of offensive game. He’s a great person and I wish him the best but he doesn’t have a chance at making it to the NBA.

  6. Luether
    2:12 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

    Here’s hoping Marcus gets what he deserves…

    • theWilkman
      3:21 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

      Only if you get yours first

  7. ClutchCargo
    2:38 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

    Marcus is a class act and I wish him well wherever he goes. I just don’t think he has ever had a real passion for basketball, and now he is paying the price after the combine experience. Hopefully pro basketball works out for him, but I’m sure he will be successful in whatever he ends up doing in life.

  8. mikep
    2:41 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

    Good luck Marcus. I hope you reach your dream to play in the NBA someday. Hate to see you leave. Once a Cat always a Cat. Go Big Blue!!!

  9. Larry Pratt
    2:43 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

    You know, this transfer may not have been Lee’s idea. He seemed to have burned some bridges with Cal.

  10. Angelo
    2:54 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

    i doubt this would have effected Bolden’s decision.

    • Booby Petrino
      3:19 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

      or affected it either.

    • Angelo
      3:47 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

      effect is used as a verb when you are referring to ‘bringing about change.’

    • ClutchCargo
      4:36 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

      Angelo, I think you have your definitions of affect and effect as verbs switched around.

    • PoopTooth
      5:43 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

      Ummm no Angelo… Booby and Clutch are correct…

  11. SoCalCat
    3:02 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

    If you’re Marcus you realize that you are really far away from being in the NBA. Having to earn a living outside the US doesn’t seem that glamorous so you have 2 options. 1) Stay at UK and likely make no significant personal improvement; 2) Go to another school and (hopefully) make some improvement over the next couple of years. Maybe he sees himself as a Kyle Wiltjer wanna-be. I think leaving will be good for both UK and Marcus.

    3:03 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

    Why isn’t someone saying maybe he transferring due to Cal. Lee would never say that publicly but maybe he just doesn’t want to play for Cal anymore. Also, maybe he is thinking since his combine didn’t too well and Cal couldn’t get him ready for the NBA maybe its time to give a different coach an opportunity to work with him. Just like Cal says about the program, its not for everyone, the same is true for Cal himself.

    • Mc12
      3:18 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

      If Lee didn’t get better in practice going against KAT, WCS, Randle, Lyles, Dakari while getting coaching from Payne, Cal, and Robic….he’s not going to magically become an offensive force. Sometimes it takes personal accountability on whether you get better. Did Cal not get him ready? Or did Lee not work on his weaknesses in practice? Did Lee do what he had to do to become the best version of himself?

      The bottom-line is that Lee’s game didn’t progress. You get better during practice. Not during games.

    • Booby Petrino
      3:21 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

      lol @ Cal couldn’t get him ready for the NBA. Cal couldn’t get me ready for the NBA, but that isn’t Cal’s fault, I’m just not very good at basketball.

  13. CopenhagenCat
    3:07 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

    Marcus is a good kid. But he never really improved. All he could do is dunk and foul out. He never took off I believe like Cal expected him to. I will say it and people might get mad but him and Poythress only played when they wanted to. A lot of games they just wouldn’t show up. Like Cal said this is KENTUCKY you come to play or you sit the bench.

  14. chrisg18
    4:23 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

    Well it doesn’t make much sense to me. If you want to develop for the NBA, not sure there is a better place than UK. He and Wiltjier are not the same. Marcus is a Cal kind of player, while Kyle was not, so if he can’t get it done here, where else will he get it done? If he wanted more time to develop (which is a complete opposite view from wanting to jump to the NBA right now) then take a redshirt year. A redshirt year at UK will be better than a redshirt year at a lower level school, which is where Marcus will have to go to have a bigger offensive role.

  15. GroundControlToNumber9
    5:20 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

    There’s 1 person who the NBA will let come into the league who shoot’s 40% from the free throw line as a big man.

    That was Shaq… and will remain just Shaq.

    Work on your free throws. You can do that at the Y all year long.

    Best decision Marcus could make because someone will want him out west and he gets ‘more time’ between now and the end of his amateur career to work on his game.

    • Luether
      5:35 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

      Would like to see him with Steve Fisher at SD State…

  16. Badgercat
    6:18 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

    Where else would/could he go on the west coast? Gonzaga, California-Berkeley?

    • GroundControlToNumber9
      6:42 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

      He can point at a map and that school will give him a scholarship.

      He should at least pick a place that will get him on TV. Like what Wiltjer did…

      He should also REALLY take into consideration a great passing PG… someone who can and will throw tons of oops.

      Lonzo Ball would be phenomenal for Marcus at UCLA BUT… UCLA has elusive depth at the 4/5.
      1. Would Lonzo even be around come 2017-2018
      2. Could Marcus get enough minutes once you shake out their big men for 2017-2018?

      Regardless… a great passing PG is a must for Lee.

      OR… you could go the opposite route (to really work on your game). Where you don’t get the rock at the rim to push down but get a ton of post passes. Where you have to etch out a post game. In this scenario you’d look more for a coach who plays that game (low post feed offense).

    • louisvillelaw22
      6:43 pm May 25, 2016 Permalink

      I think he would be best served finding a mid major program with a thin front line and a national schedule. San Francisco and Long Beach State come quickly to mind. Santa Clara. San Diego and Pepperdine less so.

      That way he gets some exposure and is likely the best big on the team