By Steve Finley, Special to the BVN –
This years’ edition of the UCLA men’s basketball team is a family affair.
Each week a different player steps up and leads the team. One week it’s Tyler Honeycutt. The next week it’s Reeves Nelson the next week it’s Joshua Smith. As in all families there is usually one sibling that emerges as the leader of the pack. Malcolm Lee is emerging as the leader of this Bruins’ team.
Last week Lee led the Bruins in scoring in both of their victories. He had 25 points against Oregon on Thursday and scored 19 points against Oregon State on Saturday and fouled out of the game with nearly 6 minutes remaining.
Lee is soft spoken and quiet. He leads his team by example. “He brings it every night,” said head coach Ben Howland after the Oregon game. “I could not be happier for an individual than I am for Malcolm when he has success.
He is such a great kid and he is so much fun to coach. He works so hard and all of his teammates love him.”
The Bruins are 18-7 overall and 9-3 in the conference which is good enough for second place behind 20- 4; 9-2 Arizona. The Bruins have bounced backed from last years’ losing record, their first in 40 years.
UCLA improved the team instantly by recruiting a true point guard in Lazeric Jones and junior guard Jerime Anderson has also played well at the point guard position.
Last season Lee had to play point guard which is not his natural position.
Now he can play shooting guard and small forward which helps the overall production of the team. “We are fortunate to have two good point guards,” said Lee. “Now I can slide over to the swing position and that puts me in position to help my teammates offensively and defensively. Last year we were younger. This year we have more experience. We have learned from last years’ mistakes.”
Smith, a 6”5’ junior guard from Riverside’s John W. North high school. says the Bruins are also more athletic this year. “Last year we were forced to play a two-three zone defense which is not the way UCLA plays,” says Lee. “This season we can also get out and run which puts pressure on the other opponent’s defense.”
It’s hard to compare Lee’s game to other players. He has his own style.
“Growing up I was a Kobe (Bryant) fan,” said Lee “ But now people tell me I play like Jamal Crawford (Atlanta Hawks).”
Whoever Lee looks like or plays like he knows he will need to keep playing at an ever increasing level to get the Bruins into the NCAA tournament. “This is definitely not the level I want to play at,” said Lee. “I feel I need to improve on every aspect of my game. I feel like I haven’t peaked yet.”
This week the Bruins travel north to play Stanford on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and California on Sunday at 7 p.m. If UCLA continues to win they will be back in the NCAA tournament.
“This team is capable of surprising the nation, “said Lee. “Coming off a losing season we are always the underdog and we have to put that on our backs and use that as a motivating factor.”
“Last year we felt bad because we felt like we let John Wooden down on his last year on earth,” said Lee. “This year we want to shock the world and win the Pac-10 title and after that everything else will take care of itself.”
Steve Finley is a UCLA Alum and special contributor to the Black Voice News – he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org