By Nick Robinson | February 21, 2020

It’s been a long time coming for Skyforce center Marcus Lee.

He missed the first 31 games of his rookie season due to a knee injury suffered during the NBA’s preseason competition while with the Miami HEAT.

“I was kind of in shock. It was a weird way to start my career,” Lee said of his injury. “I started off well in the preseason and then having to figure out life without basketball and finding a way to impact the team in a different way, was difficult. But finally, being back on the court, you realize how much you miss it and start going 110 percent. That’s what I’ve been trying to do this year, not take anything for granted and work as hard as I can.”

Lee averaged 8.4 points and 6.5 rebounds in his 19 games as a rookie during the 2018-19 season and was given the opportunity to return to Sioux Falls for a second season.

It was a no brainer for Lee, as he was able to get a head start in year two, compared to the previous season.

“I felt comfortable with the area and my experience here,” Lee said of his return. “When I heard I got the chance to come back to Sioux Falls and play for the Skyforce, I was very excited, and I called all the coaches immediately. I knew how we were going to do things. I knew our way, method of being, and how we push each other.

“I was a step ahead of everybody else (coming into this season), and that’s huge compared to last year. I was able to take a leadership role immediately and am able to take that to the fast-paced lifestyle we as a team have.”

Skyforce head coach Eric Glass noticed Lee’s ability to lead from the get-go this season.

“He’s always in other guys’ ears, talking them through concepts and strategies,” Glass said of Lee. “He sees the game really well. We can share a lot of that stuff with some of the younger guys.”

To start this season, Lee was averaging 19.4 minutes per game in a reserve role for the Skyforce. He was implemented into the starting lineup on January 2 and has not looked back.

The fluctuation of minutes is not a new concept for Lee, as that happened frequently under coach John Calipari in three seasons (2013-16) for the Kentucky Wildcats.

“It takes me back to my early college years,” Lee said of his minutes being changed throughout the year. “Coach Calipari explained how he wasn’t sure how many minutes I’d get. But no matter what, you always have to be ready. I went from maybe two minutes to 35 minutes, to then playing the whole game, and back to two minutes. Making sure you’re ready is crucial, because if you’re ready playing two minutes, then the coaches trust you, and the team will trust you more.”

Glass explained that Lee’s approach is a great advantage to his team and is something his teammates can look to for guidance.

“I know that I can play him 40 minutes, or I can play him zero, and he’d be fine either way,” Glass said. “As a coach, I like that, and it is a good example for the other guys. He’s also worked on being a little selfish, trying to take more, because we need more of that as a team.”

Lee has dominated as a starter over the last 16 games, averaging 12.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, and has been a key factor in the Skyforce winning 10 of the team’s last 16 games.

“We have a very unselfish team and we all flow very well this season,” Lee added of the team’s recent success. “It’s easy to get a bond and a good read on everyone on the team. When someone is open, we try to fix it and give them the opportunity immediately. Sometimes I benefit from that, sometimes it’s someone else. As long as it’s flowing and we’re scoring is what really matters.”

On top of his success, most notably, Lee leads the NBA G League in field-goal percentage, converting shots at an impressive 72.2 percent rate on 179-of-248 field goals this season.

“I credit my team,” he expressed. “They’re the ones getting me the ball and trusting me to score. They know if I get the ball in my hand that I’m going to finish it. It’s big to earn that trust and I feel that I’ve really run with it.”

With his momentum building, Lee secured a career-high 20 points, 16 rebounds in a 114-104 victory over the Santa Cruz Warriors on January 31. Soon after, he posted 14 points and set new career-highs of 17 rebounds and eight blocks in a 116-106 triumph over the Long Island Nets on February 9. Most recently, Lee tallied a 16-point, 14-rebound double-double in Wednesday’s victory over the Western Conference-leading Memphis Hustle.

“Every day, Marcus is looking to improve, and you see that growth,” Glass said. “Last year, he had some setbacks, so it’s great to see him pushing through those things and really improving. He is locked in and is someone that anchors our team – gives us the stability we need.”

Now just 1.5 games out of the final Western Conference playoff spot, Lee and the Skyforce will be looking to finish the season strong, and will have the opportunity to play seven of the team’s last 13 games in front of the home crowd at the Sanford Pentagon.

“The community that we have is amazing,” Lee said of Sioux Falls and Skyforce fans. “It’s a known thing that we have, hands down, the best fans in the G League. Consistently, we have the most people in our gym. That helps us out so much, because when we’re on the road, there’s other arenas that have maybe 20 people in it. We have thousands each game and we thank them so much for being supportive of us.”