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Ira Lee said his focus this upcoming basketball season as a senior at Prolific Prep in San Pedro, Calif., is to work on his perimeter shooting. He said he shoots approximately 500 shots a day and makes at least 55 percent of his tries (photo: Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)
LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Ira Lee’s last couple of seasons in high school have been disjointed so a minor left wrist injury will not keep him down. In fact, nothing can really stop the ultra-aggressive do-everything player with Arizona roots.
Not even a dislocated shoulder that kept him out of a game briefly here this week sidetracked him.
Lee, listed as a 6’8″ power forward but can play multiple positions, missed the entire 2014-15 season with a shoulder injury while attending Chatworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon. He then left Sierra Canyon midway through last season for Napa (Calif.) Prolific Prep after the much-publicized Marvin Bagley III arrived at the school from Phoenix.
Also playing for a new AAU team this season — Earl Watson Elite as opposed to the Oakland Soldiers as in past years — Lee appears ready to settle down and make his college decision soon. It seems as though he wants to make that choice official during the fall signing period in November.
“I think for the most part I will cut my list down in August and maybe make a decision right before my senior season starts,” said Lee, who was born in Glendale and lived there until he was 12.
Lee played in some pain during the Fab 48 tournament in Las Vegas this weekend but was not affected by his left wrist injury, which occurred two weeks ago. The wrist is noticeably taped and Lee tugged on it a few times showing discomfort in one recent game.
“It might be a fracture or strain,” Lee said. “I’m just getting through this week and then let it heal. I will stay off of it as much as possible.”
Ira Lee’s father Zeph Lee played at USC and then in the NFL for the Los Angeles Raiders from 1987-89.
Despite the injury, Lee still took command of games for Earl Watson Elite in the Fab 48, leading the group that includes Arizona Class of 2018 target Miles Norris, to the final rounds of the 17U Invitational Championship bracket.
He played as strong as ever, taking the ball to the basket fearlessly and playing attacking defense. Because of his athleticism, he closes passing lanes quick and he is a tremendous shot blocker with his ability to get to the ball fast with good instincts.
In one sequence in a game Friday night, Lee quickly shifted with his help defense and swatted an attempt by an opponent about 20 feet into the stands. Lee himself appeared momentarily stunned by the play amid the oohs and aahs of the crowd.
“I surprise myself sometimes,” Lee said.
Lee’s defensive presence and versatility is what Arizona coach Sean Miller and his staff respect about him the most, he said. Judging from all of the recruiting services, Miller has as good a chance of landing Lee as anyone. The 247Sports.com site lists Arizona with an 89 percent chance of getting a commitment from Lee with California at 11 percent.
USC (where his father Zeph Lee played football in the mid-1980’s), Oregon, Oregon State, Texas, Maryland and Kansas are also in the running.
“Coach Miller is a player’s coach,” Lee said. “It’s simple. If you play hard, if you play defense and do what you got to do, you’re going to play.
“And they offered me as a freshman so they’ve been pitching the same thing since then: ‘We want you to be like our Solomon Hill, Derrick Williams, Aaron Gordon.’ Those type of guys. That’s what they truly believe I can be like at the next level.”
Lee compares himself actually to Golden State’s Draymond Green, who can defend the point guard as effectively as a post player in the NBA.
“This summer I’ve showed my all-around game per se,” he said. “You know, Draymond Green, he’s making that a habit in this game and I’m starting to show that a lot. I just play with energy and showing my motor as usual.
“I want to show people I can do more than rebound and block shots. I am 6’7″, 6’8″ so I’m not really going to be a center in college. I had to work on other things and I think I accomplished that.”
When asked if he would classify himself as a power forward, Lee answered, “I’d classify myself as a basketball player. I can play any position. If you need me to do something, I’ll do it.”
Lee said his one major area of improvement is his perimeter shooting. He has come a long way in his overall basketball development in the last four years, admitting, “When I was growing up, I had no interest in basketball.” His shooting touch is still evolving.
He told me he takes at least 500 shots daily in his workouts and makes approximately 55 percent of those attempts.
“Everybody knows I can get to the basket,” Lee said. “Everybody knows I can pass. I just have to make my jump shot consistently.”
With his AAU career winding down and his senior season upon him, it appears Lee simply wants to get his life and hoops career in order as he approaches the next level. With the injuries, transferring of schools and switching of AAU programs over the last few years, he wants some stability.
A return to the state in which he grew up can offer that sense of resolve.
“No. 1 that’s home,” Lee said. “I was born in Arizona. I’m an Arizona kid. Whenever I go there, it feels like I am home and that I’m comfortable.”
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.