Apparently the Twitter messages and hints that 6-9 power forward Marcus Lee of California made about how much he liked Kentucky during his visit to Big Blue Madness were truthful.
Lee, ranked among the nation’s top 30 seniors, will announce his college choice this afternoon. He was down to Kentucky and California after eliminating schools such as Duke, Indiana, Louisville and UCLA.
Recruiting analysts and other sources all agree that Kentucky will be Lee’s pick and he’ll join twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison of Texas, James Young of Michigan and Derek Willis of Bullitt East in UK’s 2013 recruiting class for coach John Calipari.
“Calipari continues to impress and amaze me with his recruiting prowess,” said Adam Zagoria of ZAGSBLOG.com. “It shows how really great a recruiter he is that he can do this year after year. Now if he can sell Julius Randle on also playing with Marcus Lee, he’ll really have something special. Same if he gets Andrew Wiggins (of Huntington Prep) to re-classify. That would be even more special.
“I watched Lee last summer at the Nike Global Challenge. He was very impressive then. He was maybe the second or third best American player behind Troy Williams and James Young. He’s a bouncy frontcourt player. He likes to rebound, get after it in the paint, create his own shot. He’s not a perimeter player. I think everyone would agree that Julius Randle is the better player, but if Calipari can sell Randle that they can play together this could really be some special class.”
The versatile Lee can guard multiple positions and is an above average defender. Randle is considered the best center prospect in the 2013 recruiting class.
But remember, Calipari convinced point guard John Wall and Eric Bledsoe to play together. He persuaded Demarcus Cousins to sign with UK¿after center Daniel Orton already had. This season he landed center Nerlens Noel after Willie Cauley-Stein had already joined the Wildcats. That shows Calipari knows how to get players that play the same position to buy into coming to UK¿together.
“Kids all want to win. The kids that want to win are the ones we're recruiting,” Calipari said during UK’s Media Day. “Every group we've had has come in with the idea we want to win a championship, whether it was John (Wall) and that group, Brandon (Knight) and that group, whether it's the group last year with Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) and those guys. They all talked. They wanted to win a championship.
“So what happens first is we're a players-first program. All our jobs is to care about those kids. It's players first. Their job is to care about winning championships. Our job is we're about them. Every decision we make is about them. Then their job is to go out and basically drag us where we're trying to go.”
Maybe the Harrison twins helped “drag” Lee with them based on conversations with him at Big Blue Madness that they attended for the second straight year. Young was also there at the same time Lee was taking his official visit alo.
“They have known Marcus Lee for a long time,” Aaron Harrison Sr. said. “They probably played against Marcus as early as 9 years old. We played against him in a Houston tournament and he was a guard back then just like them. As little as two years ago he was shorter than Aaron and Andrew.
“They have a relationship. He knows them and mutual respect turned into a friendship that might lead them to play college basketball together. Marcus knows Aaron and Andrew. He knows they just want to win. He knows they are guys on the court that lay it all on the line and then they are fine off the court. He has had a chance to know them over the years.”
The Harrisons’ father said Lee got to watch their summer team where the twins constantly fed a player smaller than Lee passes in the lane for easy dunks and scores.
“Marcus is two or three inches taller than that kid and has long arms. He said he could get a lot of free dunks when they get in the lane like they can,” Aaron Harrison Sr. said.
Harrison Sr. remembers when the Kentucky coaches watched Lee at the Elite 24 in the summer and he was “kind of nervous” the first day.
“Once they saw him the second day and Marcus had his confidence and was blocking everything, they knew this could work out great. I think Marcus could be a really good combination with the other recruits Kentucky has.”
Harrison Sr., though, thinks like Calipari. He believes Calipari still has more recruits to add to what could already be the nation’s No. 1 class.
“They are waiting on Julius Randle to do his thing. Julius is a pretty strong guy. Him or Aaron Gordon would be tremendous pickups and great difference makers. Kentucky could have a new Fab Five better than the first Fab Five (at Michigan),” he said.