Chasing A Thunderbird

New Mexico College star Desmond Lee (6-4, 195) - one of the junior college ranks top scorers - talks about how Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson and his assistant T.J. Cleveland have put the Razorbacks in great position to land the versatile player during the April 15-May 17 spring signing period.

It was thought that New Mexico College star Desmond Lee's interest in Arkansas was directly tied to current Razorback star B.J. Young heading to the NBA after this season.

But Lee (6-4, 195) – whose 21.8 point average is sixth nationally in the junior college ranks this season heading into Monday night's home game with Frank Phillips College - said that is not the case.

"I think the Arkansas coaches think he is most likely headed to the league after this year and I could certainly fill his spot, but they have a plan for both of us and it is of great interest to me," Lee said Monday afternoon. "I am versatile enough to play the point and we could both be out there playing together if he stays. So that's not going to really be a factor."

Lee is shooting 45 percent (159-353) from the field, 35.3 percent (55-of-136) from 3-point range and 78.4 percent (149-of-190) from the free throw line this season while averaging 5.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game this season.

Lee has played both the point and shooting guard spots for the 21-5 Thunderbirds this season.

"I do think my versatility is the best part of my game," Lee said. "I can shoot it from deep, I have a nice pull up game and I can get to the rim. I also can handle the ball well and think I am a very good passer although my team looks for me to score a lot."

Lee appears to be Arkansas' top target to join an early signee class of McDonald's All-American Bobby Portis (6-10, 220) of Little Rock Hall and Huntington (WV) Prep star and top 40 national player Moses Kingsley (6-10, 220).

The Razorbacks will also add 6-6, 230-pound forward and Houston transfer Alandise Harris – who averaged 13 points and 6 rebounds for the Cougars in 2011-2012 to the mix next season.

"I have watched Arkansas play this season and been very impressed with how hard they play and the big wins they have had over top teams like Florida," Lee said. "It doesn't look like they have a real true point guard and I think I could help them out there. I hear they've got some big guys coming."

The Razorback staff – including head coach Mike Anderson and his assistants -have now been to see Lee play five times this season.

"That's real big to me," Lee said. "I love Coach Anderson and he really does seem like his team is a family and that is what I am looking for. He seems like a great father figure and someone who cares about you on and off the court. He also has a great history of success as a coach and that means a lot to me as well."

Lee has also bonded with Razorback assistant T.J. Cleveland.

"I was talking about family and that shows it right there because Coach Cleveland is Coach Anderson's nephew," Lee said. Coach Cleveland played and he is still young enough that he knows what guys my age are going through. I love talking to those guys on the phone and seeing them when they come here."

New Mexico College head coach James Miller can see the mutual admiration between Lee and the Razorback coaches. "He really likes those guys and they have done a great job recruiting him," Miller said. "We'll see what happens when the season is over, but I think they are going to be right there for him at the end." Lee, a Norfolk, Virginia, native, has over 30 offers from Arkansas, North Carolina State, Baylor, Auburn, Creighton, Miami, UNLV and Illinois and numerous other teams.

His most recent offers have come in the last couple of weeks from Baylor, Illinois and North Carolina State.

"Right now I am just working hard to try and win a championship and then move on to recruiting," Lee said. "I have three visits left that I can take and I will decide on those three when the season is over – which I hope is after the National Junior College Tournament (March 19-23)."

Arkansas has definitely put itself in position to be one of those three.

"Definitely," Lee said. "I don't know which three yet, but I am all about loyalty and being there and who wants me the most and will stay around to the end. Arkansas has definitely showed me that."

Lee shined as a prep at Norfolk (VA) Booker T. Washington and then went on to Martinsville (VA) Heat Prep Academy before signing with Tim Floyd's UTEP program over Marquette, South Florida and Boston College.

He instead matriculated to New Mexico College where he averaged 13.3 points per game last season.

Lee took two early visits to Colorado State and Duquense before deciding against signing in the early period and seeing what offers might come his way before the April 17-May 15 spring signing period.

"It's turned out to be a great decision for him because of all the interest he has gotten since then with the great season he has had," Miller said. "He has a lot more options now."

The Thunderbirds were 19-2, but have lost three of their last four games heading into Monday night's contest.

"We haven't played as well as we could have lately and Desmond hasn't been shooting the ball as well as he was earlier in the season," Miller said. "But he's putting in the work and I am sure he is going to step up down the stretch for us."

Lee has scored at least 10 points in all 26 of his games this season and has topped the 20-point mark in 15 games.

He had a season-high 35 points at Otero Junior College on Nov. 9 and recently tossed in 34 against Clarendon College.

"He has been remarkably consistent all year," Miller said. "He is a one heck of a basketball player that can do it all."

Desmond Lee

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