Saturday, May 14, 2011

Malcolm Lee on the Rise

Malcolm Lee on the Rise
By: Luke Byrnes
Last Updated: 5/13/11 2:52 PM ET | 2450 times read

Watch the video interview (link)

He isn't the first of his kind. Hell, he isn't the second or the third. Over the course of the last few seasons, the UCLA men's basketball program has churned out quality NBA players at the point guard position who have been surrounded by question marks as they entered they left college and enterend the professional ranks.

Like Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison and Jrue Holiday before him, Malcolm Lee's career at UCLA hardly lived up to the hype which preceded his arrive in Westwood. What those who have come before have proven, however, is that a less than prolific career at UCLA means very little as far as NBA success goes.

"I'm just trying to follow in the footsteps of (Russell) Westbrook, Jrue Holiday and Darren Collison," Lee told HOOPSWORLD in an exclusive interview, "having a good career at UCLA and moving on one day when it is time."

And that is what these four former-Bruin guards did. They turned in good performances during their times on campus, but never posted the eye-popping numbers that some of their contemporaries (Kemba Walker, John Wall and Derrick Rose, for example) put up.

For Lee, and his predecessors at UCLA, talent and skill had little to do with the pedestrian statistical careers in college but, rather, a defensively-oriented, offensively-constrictive system run by Bruins Head Coach Ben Howland.

For Lee, specifically, there have been questions about his position, not only as a pro prospect, but during his time at UCLA. The 6-5 guard has spent time both on and off the ball and as he prepares for the draft, determining which position best fits him at the NBA level remains something of a question mark in the eyes of talent evaluators.

That is not the case for Lee.

"I'm feeling a lot more comfortable with the ball in my hand," he explained. "I feel like the program also fits the style of my play. In high school, I always had the ball in my hand, just making my teammates better. That is what I am doing here (at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas), just getting back to that feeling. Drew (Moore) and Joe (Abunassar) have been working on pick and rolls, finding the open man and just reading the defense a lot, so that is what I have been doing."

This season, Lee became the Bruins second-leading scorer (13.1 points per game) while helping UCLA get back to the NCAA Tournament after a one-year absence. Despite suffering a knee injury, which would require surgery, in the team's regular season finale against Washington State, Lee averaged 12 points, five assists and 4.3 rebounds in UCLA's three post-season games.

While playing through such an injury shows toughness, it also has kept Lee off the basketball court for several weeks leading up to the NBA Draft. He has since been cleared for basketball activities and is making some believers out of those who once doubted him as a pro prospect.

"Ever since I was cleared for contact and just getting on the court I have been feeling a lot comfortable," Lee said, "especially at the one. "Just creating for myself and creating for my teammates. That is what I feel like I have been doing."

During his time at Impact Basketball, Lee has focused on the mechanics of his jump shot and has already made great strides as shooter while boosting his confidence in his own abilities.

"In the past," Lee said of his shooting, "I brought the ball behind my head a little and the extension of my elbow but now I just kind of keep it in front of my forehead and extend my elbow with my follow through and I have seen a lot of improvement so far.

"For any player, when you see the ball goes in the hoop, the confidence just goes up, it just motivates you to shoot that shot when it's time. When it is going in, your confidence is at an all-time high and that is where my confidence is right now."

With the Pre Draft Combine set to get under way on May 18 in Chicago, Lee still has a lot to prove.

He is a gifted athlete who has stood out against top competition (Josh Selby, Alec Burks and Kawhi Leonard, to name a few) at Impact recently, but must bring his A-game to Chicago to show off those skill in front of all 30 NBA teams.

"I know there is a lot of doubt out there on me," Lee said. "That just kind of fuels my fire to try to go out on the court and prove people wrong and play with a little edge or a chip on my shoulder. That is what I am just trying to do in this whole process is prove the world different."

In Chicago, he'll have a chance to do just that.

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