Briscoe returns, Lee transfers on NBA decision day

Forward Marcus Lee dunks the ball during the Wildcat’s game against the Stony Brook Seawolves during the first round of the NCCA tournament at Well’s Fargo Arena on March 16, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by Taylor Pence

Kevin Erpenbeck

On the very last day to make a decision on their NBA plans, Isaiah Briscoe and Marcus Lee both withdrew their names from draft consideration. However, only Briscoe plans to return to UK, while Lee announced he will transfer to finish his college career.

Briscoe was the first of the two to make it public what his decision was by releasing a tweet saying “Bbn im back !!!!!!!!!!!” Before deciding to come back for another year at Kentucky, Briscoe had worked out with a handful of NBA teams, including the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday and the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday.

“I really grew from this experience and I appreciate the opportunity to be evaluated by these NBA teams,” Briscoe said in a released statement by UK Athletics. “I also want to thank the coaching staff and the fans for their support during this time. The NBA is my ultimate goal, so I’m returning to build on last year. There’s no better place to grow as a player or to win a championship, and I want to do both.”

Briscoe, 6-foot-3 guard and former McDonald’s All-American, started 33 games as a freshman for the Cats last year and averaged 9.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists on the season. He figures to be an important piece in the Cats’ talent-loaded backcourt next season, playing alongside freshman guards De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk.

“Without his impact and competitive spirit, last year’s team would not have been nearly as successful,” head coach John Calipari said of Briscoe in the statement. “I fully expect him to come back and be a leader on and off the court for this young team. I’m excited to have him back.”

Shortly after Briscoe released his tweet, UK Athletics released a statement announcing Lee’s intention to transfer to another school. The statement read that Lee will be granted a full release from UK with no restrictions.

Lee started 20 games and averaged 6.4 points, 6.0 rebound and 1.6 blocks in his junior season at UK.

“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,” Calipari said in the released statement. “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 combine experience, a year off and regrouping would be the best thing. As always I support my players and their decisions.”

Lee had made it seem like he was comfortable with keeping his name in the draft, and even Calipari had said previously he thought Lee would leave for the NBA.

But the 6-9 forward failed to impress at the NBA Combine, bringing up questions whether Lee would really keep his name in. Lee’s brother Bryan Lee told the Louisville Courier-Journal in April that the idea of a transfer wasn’t one the family was even considering and that the question was “almost kind of a slap in the face” to Marcus Lee.

In the end though, the now former-Cat figured it was best for him and his family to leave the program while thanking UK for his three years in Lexington.

“I want to thank the University of Kentucky, the basketball staff and the Big Blue Nation for supporting me over the years,” Lee said in the issued statement. “I’m sorry it took me so long to come to this decision, but I’m trying to do what’s right for me and my family. I’ll always think fondly of my time at Kentucky.”

With Briscoe’s return and Lee’s transfer, UK now has six former five-star recruits on next season’s roster, with five of them in the incoming freshman class. The Cats will also have Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins back for their senior seasons, and Tai Wynyard will be on the roster after redshirting last year.