July 6, 2011

Bigger, stronger, faster, better

Kevin McCarthy

Starting anew allows the opportunity for re-branding and although Dominique Lee has good memories of his year at the University of Utah, he is looking forward to this coming season’s 2.0 version and especially the 3.0 release of his young college basketball life.

photo of Dominique Lee

The former St. Mary’s High/Bay Area Hoosier star headed off to Utah and Coach Jim Boylen after his senior season -- the plan being to redshirt his initial year in Salt Lake City. Although the Utes had a disappointing season and Boylen was let go in mid-March, Lee added muscle to his existing ones, upgraded his basketball skill levels and, most prominently, posted a 3.5 grade point average.

But the new Utah coach decided to clear out the roster -- six players departed -- with Lee quizzically being among the banished.

However, rather than see these turn of events as being handed lemons, Lee is grabbing ahold of opportunity.

His plans? He has joined brother Demetrius at Casper College in Wyoming. Each will man a starting spot for Coach Joel Davidson whose basketball philosophy can be summed up in two words: fast and faster. Davidson employs an ‘in your face’ defense and a ‘get it to the other end’ offense which sounds similar to the tempo employed by Coach Manny Nodar at St. Mary’s High.

photo of Demetrius and Dominique Lee

So why Casper? "Because I knew it would feel good playing with my brother again," Lee said.

Brother Demetrius sees good things ahead. "I’m excited, it’s back to our high school days," he offered. "I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first got to Casper but the coaches, program, school and academics have been excellent. We have good chemistry on the team."

It’s a unique setting in more ways than one. The Casper basketball program has won 12 Region IX championships, earned seven top 10 national tournament finishes and produced nine players who made it to the professional ranks. Plus, each Thunderbird game can be viewed live on the ‘net and fans seek out players at school and in social settings for autographs.

As Dominique Lee put it, "It’s a small town with not a lot to do but enough to do." Casper has 55,000+ residents with the North Platte River running through downtown.

He’ll be positioned at the two and three spots and possibly some at the four defensively.

photo of Demetrius Lee

As for his year with the Utes, Lee offered, "It was great being with Coach Boylen, he helped me improve my game a lot. The community and school were great and I made a lot of new friends."

What about those hoop upgrades? "I was mostly a slashing player -- driving the ball a lot -- coming out of high school. But after my redshirt year, I’m much more of a complete player because of spending time in the gym and working in the weight room."

A year hence, Lee sees himself back in the Pac-12 and yes, Utah is now a full-fledged conference member so that affiliation may lead to some interesting matchups.

Family friend and mentor, Aalim Moor II, offered this about Lee, "Dom did well, seizing his opportunity in Utah and it will be the same in Wyoming. He’s already a more savvy young man because of his experiences." Moor is especially proud of Lee’s success academically, noting the 3.5 grade point average was achieved alongside the hours and hours required for participating in college basketball.

Demetrius Lee’s goals include "keeping my grades up, doing well on the court and getting to the next level."

Besides being back to Lee squared, another teammate will be 6-foot-8 Remi Dibo, a one time Kentucky recruit now being looked at by a handful of high majors. "We’re going to be deep this season and hopefully we’ll get to the nationals." Demetrius Lee said.