Lee on Illinois: 'They're in the race'
They talked about families and upbringings.
Their basketball backgrounds.
The tradition and program philosophy at Illinois.
And how John Groce would plan to use Desmond Lee if he decides he wants to play at Illinois.
That's what Lee, a 6-foot-4-inch, 195-pound combo guard from New Mexico Junior College, said Monday afternoon about the visit Groce made to take in Lee's game on Feb. 14 in Hobbs, N.M., against Howard (Texas) College.
Lee scored 22 points on 8-of-18 shooting and grabbed five rebounds during a 69-64 loss that Groce and his wife, Allison, took in on Valentine's Day.
Lee reiterated Monday he doesn't intend to make a decision until after New Mexico Junior College's season ends.
The NJCAA National Championships run March 18-23 in Hutchinson, Kan., and the 23-5 Thunderbirds start the NJCAA Region 5 Tournament March 6 in Lubbock, Texas.
Lee and New Mexico Junior College will have to win the Region 5 Tournament in order to keep their season alive.
Illinois is a handful of Division I schools that have offered Lee, with Arkansas, Alabama, Baylor, Creighton, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami and North Carolina State among the schools Groce will have to contend with.
Lee, however, said he isn't ruling out Illinois.
"I’m really interested in them," he said. "I’m thinking about them, and they're definitely in the race."
Lee cites the fact Illinois is in the Big Ten Conference, what Groce did last year with his team at Ohio and its trip to the Sweet 16, along with the style of play Groce is using at Illinois among his reasons for considering the Illini.
"The guards are really big in his program, and he’s really trying to build something at Illinois," Lee said. "Illinois is not a bad school at all."
The Illini have positioned themselves into a solid spot for an NCAA Tournament berth in Groce's first season.
If they can add Lee to the mix for the 2013-14 season, however, transfers would have to take place.
Illinois does not have a scholarship available at this given point, and prospects can start to sign again on April 17, so more might be known about the scholarship situation by then.
This is the second go-around for Lee in his bid to wind up at a Division I school.
The Norfolk, Va., native initially signed with Texas El-Paso, but didn't qualify academically, leading him to New Mexico Junior College.
Currently, he's averaging 20.8 points and 5.0 rebounds this season with the Thunderbirds, and is enjoying the recruiting process once more.
"It‘s a good experience," Lee said. "Any kid would want this experience and dream about this experience. I just try to take it all in. I’m enjoying it, and it’s something that I can talk about later on in life."