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Kentucky’s Marcus Lee remains positive despite limited role in freshman season


Marcus Lee hasn't played much this season, but he's retained a positive outlook while developing his skills. (Photo by James Pennington)

Marcus Lee hasn’t played much this season, but he’s retained a positive outlook while developing his skills. (Photo by James Pennington)

 

Marcus Lee was a McDonald’s All-American last year, and now Marcus Lee has played in a total of 10 percent of Kentucky’s available minutes this season. He had only played a total of 54 seconds in Kentucky’s last five games, so his mere entrance into Saturday’s game against LSU was somewhat newsworthy.
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He’s played 33 combined minutes in No. 17 Kentucky’s 14 conference games so far. His minutes have come either in blowouts or because of foul trouble to Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson, and he’s tried to make the most out of what he’s been given. He scored 17 points in Kentucky’s season opener against UNC-Asheville (and only 28 in 16 appearances since), but he’s not a player that should be strictly valued by points scored.

 

Lee said his primary concern is to stay tuned in to each game from the bench should Calipari send him onto the floor. Once he gets in, he said his job is to stay active. If a ball comes to him, or if he can slip behind the post and go up for a lob, that’s great. But he said he’s more interested in offensive rebounds and put-backs, or blocking shots or helping out defensively in other ways.

 

“It’s just, the fact is: Try to be ready whenever they do need you,” Lee said. “Make sure you bring energy and be productive during the game. If you’re never really sure when you’re going to play, make sure you’re going to help your team with whatever they need help with.”

 

Lee played 10 minutes in Kentucky’s first game against Arkansas—you remember the game—so with the rematch looming Thursday, he could see some floor again Thursday. But then again, he might not.

 

Before the season, nobody really knew what his role would be. But it was clear that Lee had an intellectual approach to basketball: He uses both sides of his brain to engage his mind and problem-solve during practices and games. He plays with emotion, but he said Wednesday he doesn’t let his emotions of playing or not playing affect him.

 

Because he stays engaged mentally, it’s clear he doesn’t look lost on the court. He looks a bit limited, which is likely why he only plays 10 percent of Kentucky’s available minutes, but he goes in and does what he’s expected to do. He stays lively on his feet and gets in the mix for rebounds on both ends. When he’s expected to do more, whether that’s Thursday or in two weeks or next season, he said he’ll be ready. And he’ll be ready to help out those in the position he’s in now.

 

“I don’t know what the difference will be, but it’ll be good for me to have this feeling so the later generation that comes after me, I’ll be able to teach them and tell them what’s going on and how to work through it,” he said.


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