Isaiah Briscoe returning to Kentucky Wildcats, Marcus Lee seeks transfer

On the final day that college players had to announce a decision between returning to school or staying in the NBA Draft pool, Kentucky got one player back while another plans to seek a new start.

Freshman guard Isaiah Briscoe and junior center/forward Marcus Lee both withdrew their names from the draft. But while Briscoe will return for his second year with the Wildcats, in a somewhat surprising move, Lee announced that he will transfer.

“I want to thank the University of Kentucky, the basketball staff and the Big Blue Nation for supporting me over the years,” said Lee, who averaged 6.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and blocked 59 shots as a junior. “I’m sorry it took me so long to come to this decision, but I’m trying to do what’s right for me and my family. I’ll always think fondly of my time at Kentucky.”

“Marcus Lee informed us today that he is pulling his name out of the draft but has decided he is going to transfer to a school out west to be closer to his family,” UK coach John Calipari said in a statement released by the program. “We talked it through together and discussed the team next season, which he said had no bearing on his decision. I also told him he was a semester away from graduating. With that said, he was still adamant that, after the combine experience, a year off and regrouping would be the best thing. As always, I support my players and their decisions.”

Lee was granted a full release with no restrictions on his transfer, according to the release. He is the second UK player to announce his intention to transfer after freshman guard Charles Matthews did so last week.

Briscoe, meanwhile, hopes to use another year at the college level to make improvements to his game that were evident during workouts with several NBA clubs.

“Isaiah Briscoe used the new rules to the fullest by working out for eight different teams to get a true barometer on where he stands at this point in his career,” Calipari said. “I can tell you all the teams were impressed with him physically, defensively, his rebounding ability, his strength, his ball-handling ability and his basketball IQ. He shot the ball well at the NBA workouts but will look to continue to improve that to take the next step in his career.

"I fully expect him to come back and be a leader on and off the court for this young team. I’m excited to have him back.”

Briscoe averaged 9.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game while establishing a reputation as one of the nation's top backcourt defenders. He had a career-high 20 points against UCLA and a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds) in UK's NCAA Tournament victory over Stony Brook.

“I really grew from this experience, and I appreciate the opportunity to be evaluated by these NBA teams,” Briscoe said. “I also want to thank the coaching staff and the fans for their support during this time. The NBA is my ultimate goal, so I’m returning to build on last year. There’s no better place to grow as a player or to win a championship, and I want to do both.”

Briscoe will join Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins, Isaac Humphries, Mychal Mulder and Tai Wynyard as the returning scholarship players for 2016-17. They'll team with the nation's No. 2 recruiting class -- Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox, Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Malik Monk -- to form what is expected to be a national contender next year.

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