By LARRY VAUGHT
When Marcus Lee decided to play for Kentucky, he was just thrilled he would get to be part of the program’s tradition and play for coach John Calipari. The 6-10 California center had no idea he would become part of a historic recruiting class.
“No, I had no idea this was going to happen. I am really excited to see us do great things next year, but not way did I imagine it was going to happen,” said Lee.
He averaged 17.7 points, 19.5 rebounds and 6.7 blocked shots per game for Deer Valley High School and now is part of the nation’s all-time best recruiting class along with Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison, James Young, Aaron Harrison, Dakari Johnson and Derek Willis.
“Winning the national championship has gone through our minds. Now it’s stuck in our minds. That is all we plan on doing, especially since we are all big competitors. We will refuse to lose next year,” Lee said.
He spent time with the Harrisons, Randle, Johnson and Young at the McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago and at the Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn last month.
“I think it is great to be together like that. It helps us mesh quicker and gives us more time to be together. We all get to be around each other, laugh and joke around together. That has to help for next year,” he said.
“Being away from each other in different cities, we kind of forget that we are all still teenagers. On tape and film we look like big athletes that are always serious. Finally being with each other makes us realize we are all still kids and joke around all the time and like to mess around. We can be serious about basketball and still be kids and have fun.
“We are similar but we are still different. We get along real well. We are joking around probably 90 percent of the time. The other players are probably tired of us always talking about Kentucky, but we are loving it. There are six of us. If five of us are not talking about Kentucky, the sixth one will be. We are really excited to get there and do greatness.”
Knowing UK has an abundance of front-court players with the incoming freshmen along with returning players Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer does not bother Lee.
“I think that was pretty smart. That way we are always ready to play different teams. Maybe we play a really big team and need big guys that are huge and we have that team for it. Maybe we play really fast teams and need me others for that. We are always set for different teams,” Lee said. “But the pace really doesn’t matter. I am running either way. I will sprint the court no matter what just to make life easier.”
Lee averaged more rebounds per game in high school than any of UK’s returning players or incoming freshmen.
“I had to do it to win. My coach came to me my sophomore year and was like, ‘Make sure you do it all or we are not going to win.’ I tried to get every rebound and every time I didn’t I was like, ‘Man, we won’t win if I don’t get that next rebound.’ So I took it upon myself to do that and hope to do the same at Kentucky,” Lee said.