In more than 35 minutes of play at the NBA Combine here, Marcus Lee made one of six shots, grabbed three rebounds, scored four points and committed six fouls.
That might suggest he return to Kentucky for his senior season. But that’s not how Lee saw it.
“I don’t think I hurt myself at all,” he said after Friday’s game. “I was able to show a lot of abilities. Overall, I think it went pretty well.”
With the Combine largely about reading between lines and trying to surmise intentions, Lee gave reporters reason to believe he will keep his name in the June 23rd NBA Draft.
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Lee even found acceptable the prospect of apprenticeship in the NBA’s Development League.
“I definitely understand the D-League may be an option,” he said, “and that’s a normal step for a lot of people.”
Lee reminded reporters that three former teammates went from UK to the D-League: Andrew and Aaron Harrison, plus Dakari Johnson.
“I see it as just another step,” he said.
But, a reporter countered, the D-League means bus rides from one nondescript town to another. It’s far removed, geographically and aesthetically, from the glitz and glamour of the NBA, not to mention a lordly college program Lee is familiar with.
“Different from Kentucky?” he said with a smile.
Lee dismissed the importance of this culture shock.
“That’s just the way it is,” he said. “You’re not given everything. I think it makes it more real for you to understand it’s now or never.”
Lee acknowledged that Kentucky fans might find it strange that a player would leave “the greatest program in the history of college basketball” for, say, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
That’s where the decision-making process comes into play, Lee said. He and his family will weigh the options and make a decision. And Lee emphasized that it is a family decision involving his brother, Bryan, with UK coaches assisting.
“They’re going to do what’s best for me,” Lee said. “They’re always in the mindset of what’s going to be the best option for me.
“So I know I’m going to have that group, and that family and that team around me to where I know no matter what we choose, it’s going to be our best.”
Lee said he has not hired an agent, which leaves open the option of returning to Kentucky.
“I feel that’s the best way to go because things do happen,” he said. “You don’t want to not have a backup plan, and kind of be out on your own.”
On Thursday, Lee said that there is an 87-percent chance that he will stay in this year’s NBA Draft. A day later, he said that answer was only a joking response to a reporter that asked him to put a specific percentage on the option of him ending his Kentucky career.
UK Coach John Calipari supported his decision to enter his name in this year’s NBA Draft, Lee said. Calipari would also support a decision to stay in the draft should that be what’s decided, Lee added.
“Coach Cal is one of my biggest supporters,” Lee said. “He’s the biggest supporter of all of us.”
Of the pedestrian statistics that he compiled in the Combine games Thursday and Friday, Lee pointed out that he was playing with unfamiliar teammates. He also expressed satisfaction with how he defended several positions in Thursday’s game.
The NBA feedback he talked about echoed a familiar Calipari theme regarding Lee the past three seasons.
“Got to be more aggressive,” Lee said. “I’ve gotten a lot of (people) saying just run the floor and be active like I am. … Just be yourself.”
Lee caused an Internet kerfuffle on Thursday when he said Kentucky would be undefeated next season if he returned.
“Our team will be amazing next year,” he said of this scenario. “I honestly don’t think we’ll lose at all next year.”
More than once, Lee dismissed the arrival of another stellar recruiting class — and the possibility that he would not play a prominent role for UK next season — as being a factor in his stay-or-leave decision.
“No impact at all,” Lee said.
Lee sported a new hairstyle at the Combine. It featured a blond Mohawk outcropping. It was, perhaps, a farewell gesture to college life.
“Nobody’s really worried about it,” he said. “We’re in 2016. Everybody has crazy hair at some point. … I think it’s just something you do when you’re in college. You’ve got to get those things out. You’ve got to test the waters on some stuff.”