Can Malcolm Lee Keep Up UCLA Pro Success?
By: Lang Greene
Last Updated: 5/26/11 7:02 AM ET
The UCLA men's basketball program has been producing top tier guard talent to the NBA over the past few years and the 2011 draft field features another former Bruin whose stock has been rapidly rising as the league gets set to welcome the next wave of rookies into the fold.
Recent UCLA standouts excelling in the NBA at guard include All-Star Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo and Jrue Holiday. The NBA's leading rebounder in 2011, Minnesota power forward Kevin Love, is also on the school's prominent pro alumni list.
Malcolm Lee, a 6'5 point guard, hopes to continue the notable NBA success enjoyed by those players, especially the guards. If confidence was the sole determiner of success at the pro level, Lee's name would fit right in with the aforementioned group.
Lee doesn't shy away from comparisons to Westbrook, Collison and Holiday. In fact he embraces them and is anxious to prove his name belongs in the same sentence.
"I'm kind of actually similar," Lee told HOOPSWORLD on where his game fits compared to recent UCLA pro guards. "I feel like I have a lot of explosiveness like Russell Westbrook and also the defensive side like Jrue Holiday. I kind of see myself similar as them. I really can't see the difference."
After a little more thought, Lee admitted to having one advantage over guard trio.
"I'm taller than them and I got a little more length," Lee added.
Lee will indeed have big shoes to follow once he starts his journey in the league.
Westbrook was named to the All-NBA second this season at point guard beating out New Orleans' Chris Paul who was a league MVP candidate in his own right.
Collison and Holiday both served as the starting point guards for teams who reached the NBA playoffs this season – Indiana and Philadelphia respectively.
Afflalo was one of the league's most dangerous threats from three-point range and also a key contributor for the Denver Nuggets who also made a postseason trip in 2011.
Lee's physical size for a point guard continues to make him an intriguing prospect as the draft approaches. His performance in pre-draft functions has routinely impressed scouts and his name is shooting up draft boards.
The latest HOOPSWORLD mock draft has Lee positioned at No. 17, but as Steve Kyler pointed out recently the former UCLA standout may have more team workout requests than can fit into his schedule over the next 28 days.
The No. 17 slot would make Lee the fourth point guard off the board behind Duke's Kyrie Irving, UCONN's Kemba Walker, Kentucky's Brandon Knight, and BYU's Jimmy Fredette.
However, Lee believes he has a few items working in his favor over his peer group.
"I feel my height [is an advantage]," Lee confidently told HOOPSWORLD. "I feel like I have good size over them, because I average about two inches over all the point guards (in the draft). So I feel like my height, my explosiveness and also my defensive side [separates]."
Coming from a system at UCLA which emphasizes defensive accountability heavily, Lee also understands that there are lingering questions on whether he can be effective scoring the rock at the next level.
While he averaged double-digits in scoring during his last two collegiate seasons (12.1 and 13.1), he also finished his career as a sub 30 percent shooter from three-point range.
View Lang Greene Archive But Lee ultimately believes his offensive potential is just scratching the surface and he's ready to show and prove.
"A lot of people don't know there are a lot of things I can do on offense," Lee commented. "I can also hold my own on offensive end."
Whether Lee's offensive talent will translate to the pro game remains to be seen, however it's important to note that his revamped shooting stroke displayed during pre-draft activities have left scouts impressed.
Another area which may separate Lee from his peers is the motivation to maximize the opportunity presented in the here and now.
When asked who the strongest influence on the player he's become, Lee provided a different answer than most.
"My sister because she was a role model growing up," Lee said. "I kind of followed in her shoes. She played basketball as well but her career was ended short with two ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears so she really couldn't go on and play after that. So I play for her because she was cut due to injuries."
Witnessing the devastation of a career-ending injury firsthand has put Lee on a mission of hard work and a mindset of never taking the game of basketball for granted.
"Basically it just shows the ideal that you can't take nothing for granted because anything can be taken away from you," Lee told HOOPSWORLD. "I kind of go by that day-by day so I'm real appreciative of what I have."
For now, Lee is focused on workouts and further improving his rapidly increasing draft stock which may see him slip into the late lottery.
But wherever he ultimately ends up being selected it will undoubtedly be a dream come true and a reward for all of the hard work.
"It's just a dream coming into reality," Lee explained to HOOPSWORLD. "I've pretty much been dreaming of this ever since I was little, ever since we first started playing on five foot rims and stuff like that. You kind of dream about being in the NBA but now it's coming into reality."
Lee finished the answer taking it all in.
"Everything is coming into play, like wow, this is the combine and the draft is in a month. It's just a lot of mixed feelings for these next couple weeks."