For nearly as long as Ira Lee has been playing basketball, Sean Miller has been on the four-star forward, pitching to him why his career - both on the court and off - would benefit him the most by coming to the University of Arizona.
At 6-foot-8, 210 pounds, Lee is an Arizona native who grew up in California and is known for his high energy and never-ending motor, which, he says, is his best asset.
"I’m always going to play hard…offense, defense. I rarely take plays off," Lee told me. "You could score on me a few times, but I’ll make sure you don’t again. I never give up."
His skill set was on full display this past week in Las Vegas as Lee’s Earl Watson Elite took home the championship in the Fab 48 17U tournament.
On the recruiting scene, there has been little change to the list over the past few months. When asked about the recruiting process, the 53rd overall player responded, "It’s going pretty well. I’ve got Arizona, Texas, California, and Kansas... those schools are in the mix."
(Note: This interview was done before he received an offer from Maryland). I reached out to Lee about the Terps offer and he said, "I’m excited for the new offer. It’s a great program."
With the summer and AAU season winding down, Lee plans on hunkering down and hashing out his official visits. When asked if he has a date set to narrow down his schools, he said, "Not really. I’ll discuss that when I get home with my family." He elaborated more to Javier Morales of AllSportsTucson.com, "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."
With three visits to the University of Arizona campus under his belt so far, the Prolific Prep forward might know the school better than some of the incoming freshmen. His latest trip to Tucson was at the end of June, and while it wasn’t anything new, he said "I felt comfortable there."
In terms of what attracts him to the program, Lee listed three things:
"One, I was born there. Two, Coach Miller is a great coach. Three, Aaron (Gordon), Stanley (Johnson), Solomon (Hill); those dudes are my big brothers and are always in my ear about Arizona."
While UA has former players encouraging him, Lee has two teammates, Jemarl Baker and Juhwan Harris-Dyson, already committed to California. He said they are constantly telling him he should come join them in Berkeley.
"Coach Cuonzo [Martin], they offered me my freshman year too along with Arizona," Lee explained. "Same thing. I’ll come in and be the all-around versatile forward. I gotta do it all. I gotta rebound, score and get my teammates going. That’s what they’re pitching too. Two of my AAU teammates have committed to them so I have a little pressure to go there too."
With his motor second to none, Lee is focusing on his jump shot this offseason in order to make himself a triple threat on offense.
"Shooting, consistent shooting, my form and making sure in the future it’s consistent," he said about his offseason workouts. "Everyone knows I can get to the basket. I can dunk on people. I can pass the ball. As the shooting gets consistent, I think my game will be unguardable."
With that type of a skillset, Lee doesn’t want to confine himself to just one position.
"I don’t give myself a position. I think I’m an all-around basketball player."
In his free time, something that he acknowledges isn’t very often, he’s just like any typical teenager who enjoys listening to music, spending time with friends and family, and hitting the beach. He’s also unsure of what exactly he wants to study, but with his rock-solid work ethic on the court, I don’t think anyone is too worried about how hard he’ll work on his academics once he reaches college - wherever that may be.
With a tentative fall announcement date, Lee and five-star point guard Collin Sexton could be battling it out for who is the first commit of Sean Miller’s 2017 class, which some are projecting to be the best this school has ever had.