Vaught’s note: Jessica Jones is a die-hard Kentucky fan now living in Iowa. She contributed two blog posts when Kentucky played in the NCAA Tournament in March and today I asked her to share her feelings on Marcus Lee’s decision to transfer from UK to another school. Enjoy her perspective that is a bit different from most UK fans but certainly is backed up with logic and facts.
By JESSICA JONES
Today I was saddened to find out the news that Marcus Lee would be transferring. It has been known for a few months that Lee would not be back at Kentucky next season but I didn’t think he would transfer. I think this is a big mistake by Marcus. Before I explain why, I want to make sure that everyone knows that I am a huge supporter of Marcus and wish him the absolute best, but sometimes the truth isn’t always pretty.
Why is Marcus leaving?
Marcus claims he would like to return west to be near his family. He also desires more touches in the offense and to be more featured. Sound familiar? Kyle Wiltjer cited similar reasons. Coach Cal also added that Lee wants to “regroup” in light of his combine feedback.
Now some of you might say that transferring worked out really well for Kyle and could for Marcus. I would say it depends on what your goals are. Kyle did become a focal point of the offense at Gonzaga and even helped Gonzaga in a couple of deep tournament runs. Did he improve his NBA stock? No, not really. Kyle might find a spot in the NBA through summer league but he’s currently listed as the 89th best prospect, leaving him undrafted. This is similar to where he was while at Kentucky.
Now let’s talk Marcus Lee. Marcus Lee’s ultimate goal is to be in the NBA. If that’s truly his goal, Kentucky is the place to be. Calipari has proven you don’t need to be the man or even start to be an NBA player. You have to shine and be efficient in your earned minutes. In Lee’s first two seasons at Kentucky he was a role player. When called upon he provided energy and high bouncing dunks. He provided a spark in the tournament run in 2014, especially after Willie’s injury.
Looking at Lee, I think it’s safe to say he’s not going to be a feature post player in the NBA, but definitely has a shot as a role player. This is similar to what he would do at Kentucky this season. There’s minutes for him but not starting minutes. Calipari runs his program like an NBA team. Guys that come in have to learn to play with other talent and share the ball like they would in the NBA.
Kentucky needed Lee to step up in 2016 but he didn’t quite fill those shoes 100 percent of the time. He had great moments. There was plenty of room for improvement for Marcus. The minutes would have been there for Marcus to earn. More playing time isn’t the key for Lee’s draft stock. Hard work and dedication to getting better is what would get him there. This is what Calipari demands. It is probably likely that Marcus wasn’t as dedicated to the game as he should have been in order to become the best version of himself all the time during his three years at Kentucky.
Kentucky has all the tools, it was up to Marcus to use them. Marcus could have returned to Kentucky with the advice he had received from the NBA combine and ran with it. He could have lived in the gym and used the coaches at Kentucky to better his game in every aspect. He could practice against NBA style talent and play an NBA type role. However, like Calipari says, Kentucky isn’t for everyone. Maybe the grind was too much for Lee or maybe the stage too big or the lights too bright or perhaps the criticism just simply too much.
Kentucky is the best preparation for the NBA and Lee could have come into the 2016-2017 season and blown everyone away. That was up to Marcus though. If he couldn’t improve his stock at Kentucky, will he do that elsewhere? Maybe but I don’t see it. He will, however, be able to find more minutes and more touches at another program. Like I said, depends on your goals.
Marcus also made some comments that made it very difficult for him to return. Throughout last season, Calipari called him out several times during postgame press conferences. Calipari did this to show Marcus that you’re accountable at Kentucky and you have to step up. Unfortunately Cal’s tactics didn’t really work to motivate Marcus. It’s believed Marcus had some work to do in order to return to Kentucky. There’s also the “40-0” comment. Marcus said Kentucky would go “40-0” if he returned. Obviously he said that knowing he wasn’t returning but who would turn down a super team to go sit out a year?
Now I know Marcus has nothing but love for Coach Cal and Kentucky but it really seems Calipari wasn’t happy with Lee’s decision, either. Calipari is the guy you want on your side if you’re trying to get drafted. I believe Marcus could have really shined in a role player spot and maybe even gotten to be a part of a title winning team.
With all that said, there isn’t a nicer guy than Marcus Lee. Marcus in an outstanding human being. I wish him nothing but the best. I think Marcus was humbled by the NBA combine and feels like he needs to show off some offensive skill. Maybe taking a year off and re-focusing will be the best thing for Marcus.
While I believe it’s the easy road, I hope it works out for Marcus. I’ll be rooting for him. I hope Marcus takes his time to regroup and do amazing things because he has freakish athletic ability. Thank you and good luck Marcus Lee.