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.”