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August 9, 2012
Every year, there are kids who have a unique story as to how they ended up as elite basketball prospects. Marcus Lee is definitely one of those kids.
While the 6-foot-10 rising senior at Antioch (Calif.) Deer Valley didn't really burst onto the national scene until this past spring, he wasn't exactly a total unknown.
In fact, Rivals.com first noted his skill and shot-blocking prowess back in July 2011. But still, as far as elite prospects go, Lee is a newcomer to the scene.
In fact, earlier in his career, Lee may have even been more highly regarded as a volleyball player. An all-East Bay level player, Lee says that there's no shortage of things that translate well from the volleyball to basketball court.
"I think just the movement of playing defense is the same in almost every sport," Lee told Rivals.com. "Always being ready like you have to be in volleyball is good. Blocking is all timing and jumping in a different way and volleyball gets your legs stronger. It's a great way to learn jumping and timing."
While Lee will continue to play volleyball as a senior in high school, his future is on the basketball floor. Adjusting to the sudden rush of attention that came after he started hitting the grassroots circuit with California Supreme has been a fun experience for him.
"It's been insane," said Lee. "It was really hard getting used to it. I think the first day of EYBL, I had a game and I got out of the game and all of these people were trying to get interviews and I was like what is this? It's been a great experience.
"It doesn't bother me. But after a loss, I don't want to talk to anybody. But after a win, it's like yes, because you feel like you accomplished something."
Over the summer, Lee developed a reputation as being one of the top shot blockers in the country. It's a reputation he likes having.
"I think my strongest point is probably defending the goal," he said. "I have a mentality of 'I own the rim and the backboard so don't try to touch it.' That's what mentality I was told to have so I've kept it."
Then again, that doesn't mean that Lee wants to be seen as simply a defensive ace.
"Something that I tried to grow on this summer was be more aggressive and demanding on the offensive side," he said. "Going into the end of Peach Jam and Vegas, I feel like I accomplished that. "I read that my offensive skills are raw and I go to my coach and I'm like what are they talking about? With Cali Supreme, I didn't have to score every time. I was able to pass and I could score when I had to. I feel like my offense has been underrated but I'm OK with that because it gives me motivation."
Ultimately, Lee -- who ranks No. 33 nationally in the Rivals150 -- earned attention from coaches across the country. Recently, he cut his list to seven schools, including California, Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville and UCLA.
"I got like a home feeling from all of them," said Lee. "They all have really good players there that I can mesh with and then the players that they are bringing in are all good people, most of all. I don't want have to go to a school where there's a player who I have to deal with that has an attitude in practice or is giving the coach trouble. I don't deal well with that."
After speaking in a more broad sense, Lee broke down a little bit of what he likes about each of his finalists.
Cal: "It's a home team and I've always watched them. They are a team that I've rooted for. My family can watch me play on a daily basis and they can come see me because I'm not away from my family. It's a great opportunity for me to play with my local players and establish something big saying that Cal is great for a local place. You don't have to go far to get a good team."
Duke: "Duke is a place that I can get better. I know if I go there I won't just be some big guy sitting there not getting better. Even if I sit on the bench, I know I'm getting better the next day. Every time I've talked to them I've felt comfortable. Every time I talk to (Mike Krzyzewski), I feel that he is energetic, and that makes me energetic that somebody like that feels that way about me."
Indiana: "I love it because they play a pretty fast tempo. Knowing me, it's a good fit because I'm a runner. I can run past the defense and get a quick bucket. They use their posts really well and I really love that. Especially with the way they use Cody Zeller. He's a big man that I really love watching play."
Kansas: "With Kansas, it's just their program is so in sync, it's likes silk, I would say. It flows and it's really great. If you go there you can't just sit there and not get better. It's one of those schools that even if you are a bench player they won't ignore you and do nothing for you. You will get better and that's something that I'm emphasizing."
Kentucky: "They were pretty late, but when I talked to Coach (John) Calipari, he kept it simple. He didn't come to me like 'Yeah, I want you to come in and start and I want you to do this or that.' He came to me like he wants me to come because he thinks he can help make me better. He told me about coming and being part of a team. He also told me that it's not for everybody. That kind of got me thinking in an awesomely awkward way because you don't hear that from many coaches."
Louisville: "I think the first time I talked to them it felt like family. Because of school and basketball and volleyball, I don't really have time to watch (too much) television. But once I talked to all of their coaches, I really liked them. It just felt like family to me and I get a really warm feeling there and I want to check them out more."
UCLA: "They've been there from the start. It's been really, really great getting to know them. It's another school that is really close and my family can see me play. It's just like they have things that they do and don't change much. They do things until they get them how they want them. It's like they have a tradition that they must follow through, the Bruin way."
Like any other player in his position, Lee is taking a close look at each program's personnel, history and how he fits into the picture. But, he's also not demanding that he come in and play a certain number of minutes or be a starter.
"If I go to a school and don't start, I'll be fine with it as long as I'm getting better," he said. "I can always learn from the person in front of me, that's cool."
Soon, Lee will sit down with his family and begin to set up college visits. He's not going to rush things and given where he's come from as a prospect and his busy schedule, he's also trying to enjoy things as much as possible because he hasn't gotten to experience the recruiting process for as long as many other players.
"I'm definitely going to wait until the spring so I can see more and watch more," he said of making a decision. "I haven't been here as much as some of these players who have been dealing with this for four years, so I want to make sure that I'm taking my time and soaking it all in."