Lee declares for NBA Draft

UCLA junior guard Malcolm Lee said he was declaring for the NBA Draft during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, but added that he was not going to hire an agent.

Lee, who is coming off left knee surgery, said he will take until the May 8 deadline to pull out of the draft before making his decision. He is in the process of rehabilitating his knee – which required surgery to fix a small cartilage tear and small miniscus cartilage tear, suffered in the team’s regular-season ending win over Washington State – and hopes to be ready for individual workouts that start on April 28.

“I consulted with my family and mentors like that, but the deciding factor was saying I’m a junior and I felt I made a lot of improvement from last year,” Lee said. “I felt like it was just right.”

Lee said his AAU coach was in the process of interviewing potential agents, but he said he wasn’t going to hire one in the interim. Sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt declared for the draft on Monday but will hire an agent, ending his college eligibility.

UCLA head coach Ben Howland said he thought it was Lee made the right decision based on the fact that he has the option to return his senior year, when the Bruins are projected to be among the top teams in the country.

Lee submitted a questionnaire to NBA executives yesterday that will give him feedback on his current draft prospects, Howland said, and he should have the results in 7-10 days.

“I don’t think it hurts Malcolm at all,” said Howland, who also added that he expects sophomore forward Reeves Nelson to return after their discussion. “He’s leaving open the option to come back to school if he doesn’t get the feedback he wants to hear. His classes are Tuesday and Thursday, and he should be good to go in terms of being back to full strength by the time they are starting to work guys out, which at the earliest is April 28th.”

Most mock drafts have Lee anywhere from the early second round to undrafted, but Lee’s sensational defense could find him a first-round suitor. Lee averaged 13.1 points on 43.7 percent shooting and added 3.1 rebounds as an All-Pac-10 first-team selection for the Bruins, who advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

But it was Lee’s defense that drew rave reviews, as the all-defensive team pick was called the “best perimeter defender in the country” by Howland on several occasions.

“I feel like I’m a first-round draft pick, but my opinion doesn’t mean anything,” Lee said. “If I’m not a first-round draft pick, as of right now, I feel like I can improve my stock in the workouts.”

Lee said he is unconcerned about a potential NBA lockout, and that it will not affect his decision. However, he did say that the team’s potential for next season – even with Honeycutt off to the draft, most Pac-10 observers believe UCLA should be at the top of the conference next year – could be a factor in his return.

“That’s definitely on my mind,” Lee said. “Just knowing what our team could be with me.
The potential this team has could be could be a deciding factor. But if I were not to come back it could be a top team still because we do still have talent.”

Howland added some more talent on Monday, only it will be delayed a year.

Former Taft High and North Carolina point guard Larry Drew II enrolled at UCLA on Monday and will redshirt next season before becoming eligible as a senior in 2012-13.

Drew abruptly left North Carolina in early February after his playing time diminished and he lost the starting role to freshman Kendall Marshall.

Drew averaged 4.4 points and 3.9 assists in 22.8 minutes per game as a junior, down from 8.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 28.8 minutes per game in 2009-10.

“We’re excited to have Larry Drew in the program,” Howland said. “I think he’ll be a good addition. Gives us a point guard in a class we need it as we move past next year. I’m excited about our team next year. We won’t know Malcolm’s decision until sometime around May 8. Then I’ll have a better feel.”

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  • anonymous

    Next season with Lee, UCLA is first in the Pac-10. Without Lee, second or worse.

  • ucla-of-the rockies

    I hope Malcolm is hearing this from someone:
    A). Finish school
    B). Put on another 10 lbs.
    C). Hang a record 12th banner
    D). Become KNOWN as the country’s top stopper AND one of it’s most electrifying 2 guards.
    E). Earn SOLID 1st round draft status for next year.
    or this …
    F). Son, you don’t know what winter is all about in SoCal. But you will come December is Casper, Wyoming.

  • Blue Critter

    It is time for players to pay back scholarship funds if they leave the team early. Any sport. Like 80% after 1st year, 70% after second year, 60% after 3rd year.

  • Bruintx

    I like Malcolm a lot and wish him well, but first round draft pick? Sorry, but I just dont see it this year. Thank God he has enough brains not to hire an agent now and to get feedback first. I think (and hope) he’ll be back…

  • BSKB

    I like his NBA prospects. He has real potential to be a star…

    oh wait, they shoot freethrows in the NBA too?

    Nevermind.

  • UB (Ultimate Bruin)

    Lee will be be back. The NBA will want to see him play a season on his surgically repaired knee before they commit $$$. He is ‘testing the waters’ to get his face in front of the NBA again and to go through the workouts this year to be prepared for next year. Lee and Reeves are back. F-Honeycutt. He was only interested in his NBA stock and turned out the mojo when he felt it did HIM the best. Unlike Honeycutt, Lee and Reeves have heart.

  • BruinBrent

    This would be the worst possible loss. Losing TH really, I don’t think, will hurt us to much. Lee, however, was so vital against those teams with nasty guards. I really hope he stays his last year, gets his degree, and actually finish his career a star.

    Lamb, I am praying you are Westbrook in disguise. This would be so disastrous.

  • Ben G

    Arron Afflalo did the same thing and came back for another year. Lee probably will too, I don’t see how he can give a good enough effort in the workouts after resting his knee for the previous 6 weeks. If not then we need Lamb, Powell & Parker to step it up. We would still be pretty good but with Lee, Nelson, and Smith back we have our own “Big 3″ next year who could have a monster season and all go in the first round next year.

  • BruinPain

    First of all, I’d like to wish Malcom Lee the best whatever he ultimately decides. However, I think it’d be to his advantage to come back next year to find a place in the first round. I’d like to mention a few things here. As to the comment by Blue Critter that the athletes should be paying the university money back; how about the university paying the athletes for all the millions upon millions they make on them. Also, the fact that Lee’s AAU coach is interviewing potential agents points once again to the corrupt AAU system where these AAU coaches are so often nothing more than pimps and runners! What leeches! Anyway, I hope after ML gets his feedback and realizes he’s not a first round pick that he’ll decide to return for his Senior year. Go Bruins!

  • CantJump

    Not sure how any NBA team could take ML. (and I love him) The kid can’t go to his left, watch tape, he can’t do it. (and he hardly ever finishes with his left either) The only time he can penetrate is when his defender gives him too much room on the right. He also can’t shoot from outside and when he misses (most of the time) he misses badly. I don’t think they keep an airball stat, but if they did Malcolm would have to be close to leading the nation in that category. He’s a GREAT defender, but in the league he’s going to need to score and let’s be honest, he’s had struggled doing that at the college level and it doesn’t get any easier in the NBA

  • The Blur

    CantJump is spot on in his analysis.

    Lee is often out of control on the offensive side. He’s also soft. He’s much improved from last year, which makes him look better than he really is. People compare him to Afflalo, but it’s been a while. Afflalo was rock solid: a great leader, able to hit the outside shot (was a little streaky, but never the bricks and airballs,) a great defender, and tough as nails. Lee needs to toughen up, play more under control, and clutch up when we need a bucket. If he improves next year as much as he did this year, he’ll be a lottery pick. (Remember D Wade?) But for now he’s overseas material. I hope he stays, but wish him the best either way. If he goes, my expectations for Lamb are higher than what Lee’s achieved.