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Keith Taylor: Marcus Lee closer to a landing spot; Kentucky-Louisville game moved to weekday

Marcus Lee has likely found a new home and will be closer to his family.

The former University of Kentucky forward reportedly visited California on Tuesday and is expected to commit to the Golden Bears. Lee will have to sit out next year before becoming eligible the following season.

Former UK forward is expected to transfer to California (UK Athletics Photo)

Former UK forward is expected to transfer to California (UK Athletics Photo)

Lee, a 6-foot-9 power forward, averaged 6.4 points, six rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game last season for the Wildcats. Lee declared for the NBA Draft but opted to return to college last week instead of beginning his professional career in the NBA D-League.

In addition to Lee’s departure, freshman guard Charles Matthews, a former prep five-star athlete, also asked to be released from his scholarship last month but has yet to announce his future plans.

A Chicago native, Matthews could end up at Illinois, the school that finished runner-up to Kentucky during the recruiting process. It would make sense if Matthews ends up playing for the Illini.

Rivalry game set

Kentucky and Louisville have traditionally played their rivalry game the week of or after Christmas. This year, the contest will be played on Dec. 21 at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino confirmed the game date during a press conference Tuesday in Louisville. The game will be televised on ESPN.

Louisville also will play Eastern Kentucky and the Indiana game will be played on New Years Eve, Pitino told reporters.

Pulling for Billy

Former Kentucky assistant coach and Florida coach Billy Donovan fell one game short of reaching the NBA Finals in his first season at Oklahoma City.

The Thunder lost to defending NBA champion Golden State 96-88 Monday night in the seventh game of the Western Conference finals. Oklahoma City held a 3-1 lead in the series but lost three straight to end the season.

Despite the letdown, Kentucky coach John Calipari wasn’t surprised by Donovan’s first tour of duty with Oklahoma City. The Thunder finished with a 55-27 record.

“He’s a great guy, it’s a great opportunity and he’s taking advantage,” Calipari told the Sporting News earlier this week. “I’m happy for him. This was a great choice by Oklahoma City, but it also was a great choice by Billy. Not only are these good players, but they’re great professionals. He made the right choice because of that roster.”

Often rumored for coaching vacancies in the NBA, Calipari said Donovan adjusted to the pace of the game and was able to put losses behind him in a timely manner.

“You’ve got to get by losses,” he said. “Like, right now, when I lose I am devastated. It takes me a day and a half to really get my senses back. You can’t do that in the NBA. You’ve got to be able to move on. You’ve got to learn from the tape. When the next game starts, you’ve got to lose that taste.”

Toronto, which lost to Cleveland 4-2 in the Eastern Conference finals last week. The Raptors are coached by former UK player and assistant Dwane Casey.
Toronto is already negotiating with Casey on a contract extension.

“You build your culture and you build your team and you try to learn how to build, making players want to stay here,” Raptors general manager Masai Uijiri said. “That’s the first step.”

Wynyard in world championships

Kentucky freshman Tai Wynyard will compete in the U18 3-on-3 world championship for the second straight season this week.

Wynyard helped lead his New Zealand team to a gold medal in the same event last year. Wynyard and the Kiwis won eight in a row after losing the opener to win the title.

Tournament play begins Wednesday in Astana, Kazakhstan, with Wynyard’s team taking on the Philippines in pool play Thursday. The top two finishers in pool play advance to an eight-team knockout event Sunday.

Keith Taylor is a senior sports writer for KyForward, where he primarily covers University of Kentucky sports. Reach him at keith.taylor@kyforward.com or @keithtaylor21 on Twitter

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