With the season on the line Saturday night, Arkansas basketball recruiting target Desmond Lee did exactly what he has done all season for the New Mexico College.
That's do something to win a game – this time a free throw with four seconds left that lifted the Thunderbirds to a 60-59 win over Howard in the Region 5 Tournament championship game.
That free throw by Lee (6-4, 195) – who is averaging 20.2 points this season - secured New Mexico College (28-6) into next week's NJCAA Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.
"Howard hit a 3-pointer to tie it and we just put the ball in Desmond hand's and let him make a play," Thunderbird head coach James Miller said. "He drove to the basket, got fouled. He missed the first free throw, but with it all on the line he stepped up and nailed the second."
Ironically, it was the first game all season that Lee did not score in double figures as he finished with just nine points.
"That came a game after he had 29 points and 14 rebounds to get us into the championship game," Miller said. "He's just a fantastic player that gets it done in the clutch."
The berth in the national tournament – which is held March 18-23 and is a single-elimination 24-team event this season instead of the normal 16-team double-elimination one – means that Lee's process of selecting a college will be pushed back a couple of more weeks.
"I know everyone wants to know who he is going to visit, where he is going to play next season, but his sole focus has been getting us to the national tournament," Miller said. "He will handle that in time."
The late signing period runs from April 17-May 15 so there is plenty of time for Lee to take the three official visits he has available.
"Obviously he's got a lot of time to get this done although I know the coaches want to know whether he is coming sooner than later," Miller said. "One of his biggest problems is that he is such a nice kid and he doesn't want to tell anybody no.
"When the coaches and the media call him from Arkansas or North Carolina State or Illinois or Baylor or any other school, he tells them what they want to hear," Miller said.
Lee is shooting 43 percent overall from the field this season, 32.8 percent from 3-point range (62-of-189) and 77.3 percent (177-of-229) from the free throw line.
Arkansas' coaches have been to see him at least five times this season.
"I can tell you that he is still very interested in Arkansas and (Razorback head) Coach (Mike) Anderson and (assistant) Coach (T.J.) Cleveland were just here again last week," Miller said. "He loves those guys and he is interested in other schools, but everybody is just going to have to wait until we are done. He is singularly focused right now."
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