Thursday, May 26, 2016

Big man Marcus Lee leaving UK; KU in hunt?

Kentucky's Marcus Lee speaks during a news conference prior to a second-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament in Des Moines, Iowa, Friday, March 18, 2016. Lee has decided to withdraw from the NBA Draft, but he will transfer away from UK.

Kentucky's Marcus Lee speaks during a news conference prior to a second-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament in Des Moines, Iowa, Friday, March 18, 2016. Lee has decided to withdraw from the NBA Draft, but he will transfer away from UK.


Yet another basketball big man became available to colleges Wednesday when Kentucky junior Marcus Lee, a 6-foot-9, 225-pounder from Antioch, Calif., not only dropped out of the 2016 NBA Draft but also announced plans to transfer from the SEC powerhouse school.

Coaches from Kansas University, Iowa State, Baylor, Gonzaga and Georgia Tech were the first to reach out to representatives of Lee, according to

Lee averaged 6.4 points and 6.0 rebounds a game last season. He hit 68 percent of his shots, 40.3 percent of his free throws. He had 59 blocks in 36 games.

“Marcus Lee informed us today that he is pulling his name out of the draft but has decided he is going to transfer to a school out west to be closer to his family,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “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 (NBA) Combine experience (where he graded poorly), a year off and regrouping would be the best thing.”

Lee’s decision surprised pundits such as’s Chad Ford, who notes he will have to sit out a season in accordance with NCAA rules and not be part of the draft until 2018. Lee, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader, will be 23 on that draft day, just three months from his 24th birthday.

“In NBA Draft years, that’s old. You’re an old man,” Ford told the paper. “It’s going to be tough road for him now.”

KU likely won’t have scholarship room for Lee if it lands two prospects it has been targeting in recruiting. The Jayhawks are in the final three (KU, Houston, Texas) for Jarrett Allen, 6-9 senior from St. Stephens Episcopal in Austin, Texas, and the final four (KU, Miami, Washington, USC) for Duke transfer Derryck Thornton, a 6-2 freshman point guard who played high school ball at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev.

Newman to transfer?: In something of a surprise, Mississippi State freshman Malik Newman on Wednesday pulled his name out of the NBA Draft. The Clarion-Ledger newspaper says that, like Lee, Newman might opt to transfer to another school. KU recruited Newman heavily out of high school.

“We have not spoken with Ben (Howland, MSU coach),” Horatio Webster, Newman’s dad, told The Clarion-Ledger. “I mean, we don’t know if Ben’s got the same vision that we have. We don’t know if we have the same vision that Ben has. There’s going to have to be some talking going on. Once we meet and talk, a decision will be made. But right now he’s at Mississippi State.

“The fact that he was (projected to be) in the second round. I don’t think he did enough to move up, to move the meter. So we just thought him being a freshman, it would be wise to take his name out and go back to work on the things that he wasn’t really great at.”


Steve Zimmerman 5 years, 11 months ago

Come on down, Lee and Newman!! KU fans will greatly appreciate talents like yours. I would rather we get the experienced youngsters than OAD. I really like Lee's explosiveness. Wonder why he did not perform in draft combine.

Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

Because he's big and athletic but not actually good at basketball....

Steve Zimmerman 5 years, 11 months ago

Sounds like Traylor, but I still like Lee - he can make our bigs better during practices. How about Malik? He seems like a pretty good pg?

Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

.... except that Traylor could guard off switches better than almost anyone in college basketball, could handle the ball and shoot free throws....

Brian Wilson 5 years, 11 months ago

Picking up Lee could be a good or bad. If we pick up Lee, and he develops and goes to play in the NBA, it could transform KU’s reputation from being “one of” the best programs that develops big men to being “The Best Program” for big men to go to. And, what a great head to head recruiting tool if successful since UK apparently failed to help this kid become a better player.

However, he comes and we and he doesn’t get better, by taking in UK leftovers, we might end up looking desperate. But then again, how well this kid does depends upon how much he wants it and you can always blame it on the player. I think the upside of this might be good but Im not sure....undecided.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 11 months ago

The entire decision-making process of Marcus Lee seems a bit strange. Not sure why we would want to use two years of a scholarship on a player who at best might make it into the rotation and that worst, realizes the NBA isn't within reach and heads off to Europe or ports unknown.


I remember us recruiting Malik Newman fairly hard but then he decided to go to Mississippi State. As the #8 recruit (Rivals), I thought he had a decent year as a freshman with 10 ppg and 2 apg but nothing that stood out. He does have three years of eligibility left but he has no intention in using more than one. Plus, Derryck Thornton, having played a year under Coach K. and a year of practice under HCBS is a much better bet.


Ben Howland has always been a top-tier recruiter but he seems to lose more players to transfers then to graduation.

Dirk Medema 5 years, 11 months ago

We will definitely be w/o Frank next year, and possibly w/o him and Graham and Svi. Newman seems like the combo G type that Self likes, so getting another elite G is a good thing.

If Marcus is just another Hunter, that's fine by me.

Either one or both is fine.

KJ Quartermaine 5 years, 11 months ago

According to UK fans, it was predictable that Lee would not "perform" at the draft combine because he is basically still just a raw talent without any real skill-set, with the exception of shot blocking. His offensive game is lacking for a former blue-chip prospect

Jerry Walker 5 years, 11 months ago

Soak up a scholarship for one year...practice with the team...then declare for the draft again?


Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 11 months ago

A year of being coached by HCBS doesn't hurt his resumé...but leaving without playing will say a lot more about his character.

But to be honest Jerry – that was exactly what I was thinking.

Dirk Medema 5 years, 11 months ago

Gotta play for at least one year to be productive, or there's little chance of being drafted.

Steve Macy 5 years, 11 months ago

The "fad" of transfers has come so far it is no longer a fad. With ever increasing numbers even blue blood programs have to look to them on occasion, and those occasions are becoming more and more frequent. SI figures show only 1.1% in 2007 or so, up to over 10% now of D1 players. Small wonder since we are seeing elite prospects who have gone to multiple high schools, looking for the best program to show case themselves. Like the "student/athlete" has almost gone away in basketball, loyalty has also. Do you remember Coach Self's speech that was showcased by CBS in the 2008 Final Four? He referenced wanting the best competition, as to what they should want, seems to me some, not all, aren't even ready to compete for a starting job.

Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

A player that's put up Jamari Traylor numbers, can't guard anyone more than 10 feet from the basket and shoots 40% from the FT line....

He's played three seasons. He isn't going to suddenly become 7 feet tall or develop a skill set.

Pass. Bench strength at best. Evan Maxwell brings more. So does Dwight Coleby.

Mick Allen 5 years, 11 months ago

Agreed Jay. Being fast and a leaper does not always translate into one being a skilled basketball player, although having those 2 attributes does help.

Martin Rosenblum 5 years, 11 months ago

Do we really want a guy who is told by his circle of friends/handlers that he won't go in the 1st or second round draft? Somehow, the motivation could be to really buckle down in that next year of college basketball to improve the "stock" for the next combine. Or, it could be that there really isn't much effort put out to be anything other than a mediocre part of a new college team. Why would a school like KU want or need to wait until the end of May to add on mediocre guys?

Drew Doerfler 5 years, 11 months ago

KU should have zero interest in Lee at this poiint. We need guards! big time. after this coming year, there is a good chance that vick will be our only returning guard and maybe devante. that is all. If we don't land Thornton, then we are in trouble. How many role playing big men does self need? Lee has no real basketball skills and as to his athletic ability, he performed dead last out of all participants in the athletic drill tests at the nba combine. no thanks. not to mention the kentucky leftovers reason. He's simply not good enough to play at kentucky. we are not an average program. We are KU. Kentucky and Duke are a step a head of everyone else att this point, and taking their unwanted leftovers is not going to get KU where it needs to be.

Joseph Bullock 5 years, 11 months ago

Drew, taking Thornton from Duke, is an excellent move!

Mick Allen 5 years, 11 months ago

There is a need for Thornton in '17-'18. There is no need for Lee.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 11 months ago

I completely agree.. I don't see a need for either Lee or Newman especially if Thornton transfers to KU. Malik took what he thought would be that easy path to the NBA and fell well short.

Titus Canby 5 years, 11 months ago

My advice to these guys - get an education.

Glen Miller 5 years, 11 months ago

Pass....... What have we become that we seem to be in on every transfer that come out? I'd prefer Thornton and Newman. They will help practices be MUCH more competitive and be ready to go with several years of eligibility (if they want it) instead of just 1. I think we've stockpiled enough "role players" in our front court. Allen is the only big out there I'd care to get at this point and he's staying home.

Gerry Butler 5 years, 11 months ago

I Agree 100% with you Glen. Do we REALLY want someone like Lee?- - -I think not- - I sure hope not, do we Really wanna waste a opening for one year on somone like this?- - -I don't think so- - -hw showed me nothing, watched Kentucky mainly because I'm a basketball junkie - - -saw him multiple times - -showed me nothing. Agree much much more with Thornton and if Newman would decide to transfer take him offer those tow by far.

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 11 months ago

I'll just pile on with the rest of you. Lee doesn't seem like someone who can advance KU basketball. No offense to him, because I hope things work out for him somewhere. Most likely Gonzaga if he really wants to go west.

I especially agree with the specifics from Jay and Mick that we are better off with Coleby, Maxwell, and Thornton. I'm also suspect of Newman, although I will cut him a little slack, since KU recruited him so hard. I'm wondering if his father is one of those meddlesome ones, although I probably am off base because what father wouldn't want the best for his son.

Ryan Zimmerman 5 years, 11 months ago

IDK why we are still "in the running" or whatever phrase you want to use for Allen. I feel we're a distant third

Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

Based on what? Opinions of people who haven't spoken to him but have talked to people who haven't spoken to him or anyone vaguely related to him??

That's all there is to go on.

Ryan Zimmerman 5 years, 11 months ago

Based on the 100% crystal ball. I know that's not gospel, but that's quite a lot to invest in a hunch. I dont' recall the last time a team had 0% and landed a recruit

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 11 months ago

No huge secret here but word from Austin's 3 or 4 UT Basketball Alumni Fans is that Allen gave a verbal commit to Smart the weekend of May 13-15. Since he may not sign a LOI, we may not hear anything about it until he enrolls, unless he makes a public comment, which is unlikely.

Believe it or not, there is far more excitement in Austin regarding this year's football team than if Allen signs with UT.

Michael Leiker 5 years, 11 months ago

Enough of this UK/Duke transfer talk. Picking up K and Cal's scraps...Kansas should have more respect for themselves.

Rob Bedford III 5 years, 11 months ago

I'd take UK and Duke players over Liberty players.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 11 months ago

I agree way should we take a player at a position we need who has one year of learning/coaching under Coach K.

Mallory Briggans 5 years, 11 months ago

not to be an alarmist .......but we havent even filled the roster ......and players arent flocking to KU if you noticed i wouldnt call thornton scrap he started 20 games at Duke and played in all of them so the kid can play ....thumbing your nose at this point as if weve done something lately isnt exactly a good thing.....being an elite program is less than elite if you cant get top flight players here........

Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

..... a late May Chicken Little sighting....

Aaron McCullough 5 years, 11 months ago

We just signed the #1 player from the 2016 recruiting class. They don't get much more "top flight" than that.

Jerry Walker 5 years, 11 months ago

Mallory is certainly confused. With that #1 player coming next year and 6 lottery picks in the last 5 NBA drafts who does she think we should recruit...Stephen Curry?

Henry Joseph Hofmeister 5 years, 11 months ago

why do we have to throw a scholly at these guys? just about every single student on campus has loans. if these guys believe in themselves and our program let them walk on and possibly earn a scholly their 2nd, eligible year. sacrifice to get better or go elsewhere and lose money in the long run.

Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

Was that sarcasm or did that thought actually escape your head unfiltered?

Aaron Paisley 5 years, 11 months ago

Marcus Lee = Hunter Mickelson

All either can do is block shots.

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