Experienced Lee is the team’s leader

By on November 24, 2015

By Annie Moore–

If you’ve been to a Louisville men’s basketball game this season, you’ve likely seen the introduction video playing in the rafters where we watch an energetic Damion Lee, arm-in-arm with his teammates ask “Who got my back?” But just a few short weeks into the season, it seems that this team leader is the one who has his teammates’ backs.

Fifth-year transfer Damion Lee is already displaying the leadership everyone expected to see from him. As soon as it was announced that Lee was coming to Louisville, virtually everyone put him the spot of natural team leader both on and off the court, without seeing him play one minute. There were definitely high expectations for the Drexel transfer, but it looks like he’s living up to them.

In the Cardinals first four games, Lee has racked up 60 points, averaging 15 per game. Lee has led Louisville in scoring on more than one occasion, most recently in its 87-52 win over the Hartford Hawks. Lee had 18 points, tied with Chinanu Onuaku for the most offense on the team. Lee shot 45 percent on five for 11 shooting and played 27 minutes.

After the Hartford game, Lee said one thing he’s worked on is getting into the groove of the game and this new team.

“Always being on the attack, understanding game flow, understanding more so the personnel,” Lee said. “I don’t have to shoot the ball every time I catch it. Learn to drive it, being in an aggressive mindset but also look for my teammates. Where I can attack, when I can attack. Feeding Nanu because he was hot early. Once he started to get going, the lane started opening up and [Quentin Snider] and Trey [Lewis] definitely found it.”

Getting Lee to speak on his own success or progress isn’t exactly easy, though. One only has to listen to a couple of his answers to realize what his main focus is, the team. The guard’s team-centered response to almost every question asked of him is just one way that he demonstrates his leadership off the court.

Lee, who reportedly chose to come to Louisville because of “the family atmosphere and a part of something special in a special and embracing community” according to his Louisville bio, has emerged as one of the selfless leaders of that family.

After the Samford game, Lee displayed his team mentality when asked about this team’s offense.

“It’s not only my responsibility to score,” Lee said. “Of course, I play defense as well. But we have so many weapons. I could have an off game but somebody else steps up. I think that’s the big thing with us, we don’t have just one guy that we steadily rely on to be that guy. Everybody that steps out on that court can be that guy on any given night.”

Head coach Rick Pitino has noted on several occasions that without Lee and his graduate transfer counterpart, Trey Lewis, this team would be very much in a rebuilding year. But with the transfers, they look like a cohesive team prepared for ACC play.

“What’s Louisville ranked?” asked Hartford Head Coach John Gallagher. “I would say that they’re probably in my opinion, just watching them, I think they’re a top 15 team in the country.”

Though Louisville isn’t nationally ranked on any major poll, the potential is abounding, and plain to see. A lot of that talent and potential stems from its soft-spoken, never proud leader. Lee however, seems focused on taking the season one game at a time, reluctant to discuss the season hopes as a hole or talk about any lofty aspirations they have. For now, he seems focused on his team’s defensive intensity.

“We just have to build on this,” Lee said. “Build on the defensive intensity for us, keep on working the ball around definitely. And just finding the open guy, finding the guy who’s hot when we’re on offense. But on defense, just ride the wave and continue to be more intense.”

Lee is quiet, and humble. Never one to boast on his own stats, or maybe even keep track of them, he is ever focused on the team and the family. As the season progresses, not only will this discreet leader be a galvanizing force in the locker room, but he will continue to put up big numbers for the men in red and black.

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