Marcus Lee earns applause on campus



By Nick Gray | Football beat writer

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Freshman forward Marcus Lee walked to class Tuesday morning feeling no different than he has any other Tuesday this semester.

But when he entered his marketing classroom, 200 students and his professor stood up and applauded him.

“It was awesome,” Lee said. “If you could see me blush, I was blushing.”

In UK’s game against the University of Michigan on Sunday, Lee compiled seven offensive rebounds and converted four of them to highlight-reel dunks. Lee was focused on grabbing loose balls, something he learned before his time at UK.

“In high school I was always told if I didn’t get the rebound, we were losing. So I went at (the Michigan) game like I went through high school,” Lee said. “We’re not going to win if I don’t get that rebound.”

In his pursuit of the Cats’ and Wolverines’ missed shots, he was called for goaltending violations on both ends of the court.

The first came on defense, and Calipari sent freshman center Dakari Johnson to the scorer’s table. But then Lee exploded to the rim on four occasions in a five-minute span.

His second goaltend came in the second half as he tried to attempt another rebound-and-dunk combination. Lee called it nothing more than an occupational hazard.

“That’s just going to happen,” Lee said. “Almost every game I play, I get a goaltend. It’s just how I get stuff done.”

Lee’s performance helped catapult his name throughout the country. UK head coach John Calipari now uses him as an example of how any player can be known “worldwide.”

“I’m saying to Alex (Poythress), ‘Alex, you can be Marcus Lee. Why aren’t you being Marcus Lee?’ ” Calipari said.

“ ‘You jump like him, you’re long like him. You’re stronger than him. They can’t push you around, so play like him.’ ”

The 6-foot-9-inch Lee had played no more than six minutes in a game since Feb. 1 and had fallen out of regular rotation as UK played through its late-February slog.

The losses were not any different to him whether he played or not because “a loss is a loss,” Lee said.

Playing at UK produces plenty of “clutter,” as Calipari calls it, and it is amplified for Lee, whose family lives more than 2,300 miles from Lexington in Antioch, Calif.

“I still keep in contact with my family and friends a whole lot,” Lee said. “I can’t really be out of touch (with) my California life that much.”