Apr 4, 2014, 4:58 PM EDT
ARLINGTON, Texas — Coaches say it all the time: remain prepared because you never know when your opportunity will come. While that’s an easy thing to say and an easy concept to agree to fully buying in is another matter, especially when the player in question arrives on campus at a McDonald’s All-American.
That’s the position Kentucky freshman center Marcus Lee has found himself in for much of this season, with the newcomer playing an average of just over six minutes per game. In SEC play the Californian didn’t see action in nine of the Wildcats’ 18 regular season games, and he played a total of one minute in Kentucky’s first three NCAA tournament games. So when Willie Cauley-Stein went down with an ankle injury early in their Sweet 16 win over No. 4 Louisville, more than a few people saw that as a hit the Wildcats would be unable to shake off.
Enter Lee, who gave Kentucky 15 quality minutes in their Elite Eight win over Michigan, scoring ten points, grabbing eight rebounds (seven offensive) and blocking two shots. Opportunity knocked, and Lee was both ready and able to take advantage of the situation. And that preparedness reveals a level of maturity that some freshmen would lack when having to deal with the idea of not seeing much playing time after entering college as one of the pieces of a prized recruiting class.
“We coach every player like they’re a starter,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said earlier this week. “There’s no one coached different. You’re held accountable just like a starter. You’re pushed and challenged and coached just like a starter would be.
“We try throughout the season to make sure we’re getting those kids minutes so by the end of the year if something happens, they’re ready to go. So I’m not surprised.”
Lee was one of two freshmen who stepped forward in that victory after seeing little playing time throughout the course of the season. Dominique Hawkins didn’t score a point in his 11 second-half minutes, but his defending of Nik Stauskas was a critical factor for the Wildcats. After scoring 18 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the field in the first half Stauskas scored just six in the second, shooting 1-for-7 from the field.
“I just keep myself prepared because I know someone can get in foul trouble or injured, and the assistant coaches always tell me to be ready for my chance,” Hawkins told NBC Sports. “During the Michigan game I made the most of my chance. Coach Cal wanted me to play good defense on Stauskas, and I feel like I did the majority of the [second half].”
How much of a role Hawkins plays in Saturday’s game against No. 2 Wisconsin remains to be seen, but in the case of Lee he’ll be asked to contribute against a Wisconsin front court anchored by Frank Kaminsky. Cauley-Stein is holding out hope that he’ll be able to play, but he has still yet to go full speed in practice. With that being the case, Lee may once again find himself in the spotlight. And remaining positive despite receiving limited playing time is a trait that can serve a player such as Lee well in such moments.
“No not at all, because we were winning,” Lee said when asked if he was frustrated by the decrease in playing time. “You can’t be mad about winning. Just being with my team and working hard each day, you really don’t have time to be mad about everything.
“I’ve gone through games and practices the same way I always have,” added Lee. “My mentality is always to stay ready and do whatever needs to be done for my team.”
A difficult mentality for some highly regarded prospects to maintain in the face of adversity, that mindset is one reason why Kentucky was able to do enough to beat Michigan and reach the Final Four. And both Lee and Hawkins will need to remain mentally prepared, should their names be called Saturday night.
Oct 30, 2014, 10:13 AM EDT
Kemba being Kemba.
Oct 30, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
The list of big men dominating college basketball this season is solid.
Oct 29, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT
Bobby Cremins says that his relationships with other coaches has led to his having to recuse himself from other cases in the past.
Oct 29, 2014, 9:48 PM EDT
Zach Lofton was expected to develop into a more efficient player during his year sitting out per NCAA transfer rules.
Oct 29, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
Monson is four wins away from becoming Long Beach State’s winningest coach.
Oct 29, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT
Buffalo, Canisius, Niagara and St. Bonaventure will wear Buffalo Braves-inspired uniforms for their doubleheader November 29.
Oct 29, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT
North Carolina’s Marcus Paige was the media pick to win ACC Player of the Year.
Oct 29, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Toledo’s defense will be the key to their NCAA tournament bid.
Oct 29, 2014, 3:29 PM EDT
I can do that.
Oct 29, 2014, 2:26 PM EDT
Keith Thomas was expected to start for the Johnnies.
Oct 29, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
The MAC is sure to be one of the more intriguing mid-major leagues during the 2014-15 season.
Oct 29, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT
How can Texas build off of last seasons surprising success?
Oct 29, 2014, 9:50 AM EDT
Who would you pick in first, UConn or SMU?
Oct 29, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
CBT’s rankings of the best wings in college basketball heading into the 2014-15 season.
Oct 28, 2014, 11:45 PM EDT
The JuCo transfer guard is expected to have an impact in his first season in Stillwater.
Oct 28, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT
The Syracuse big man was limited to only 12 games during the 2014-2015 season.
Oct 28, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
Arguably the top point guard in the junior class, and a consensus top 10 recruit in the Class of 2016 has narrowed his list of offers to just 10.
Oct 28, 2014, 7:40 PM EDT
Gib Arnold was entering his fifth season at Hawaii
Oct 28, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
One of the nation’s top lead guards — on one of the best mid-major teams — is as hungry as he is entertaining.
Oct 28, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT
The 6-foot-5 junior guard is looking to bounce back after a sophomore slump.
- 2014-15 Season Preview: Jahlil Okafor, Frank Kaminsky lead a strong crop of big men 0
- 2014-15 Season Preview: Toledo looks to end a 35-year NCAA Tournament drought and rep the MAC 0
- Top 25 Countdown: No. 8 Texas Longhorns 1
- 2014-2015 Season Preview: Stanley Johnson, Sam Dekker lead wing forward rankings 1
- Green Bay’s Keifer Sykes maintains the chip on his shoulder 0
- Skal Labissiere, Reach Your Dreams Prep and why this isn’t as scuzzy as it sounds 0
- Top 25 Countdown: No. 9 Gonzaga Bulldogs 2
- Five-star 2015 power forward down to five schools (2)
- Roy Williams says he was ‘dumbfounded’ following Kenneth Wainstein’s report (VIDEO) (2)
- Hawaii considering its options regarding NCAA investigation of basketball program (2)
- VCU’s band ‘The Peppas’ will be doing Haka War Chants this year (VIDEO) (2)
- Mark Emmert calls UNC scandal ‘troubling’, ‘disturbing’, ‘shocking’ (2)