The Wolverine

May 2013

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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  where are they now? NCAA Tournament in 2009 when we made our first break‑in there." In the back of his mind, even in that first meeting, Lee had loftier goals. He understood where Beilein was coming from — "trying to set the lay of the land," he said — but he was set on exceeding the glorified manager expectations. "He met with each and every player, met with me explaining the situation that I was not a scholarship player and he had to direct his attention to those on scholarship likely to play at that point," Lee recalled. "I appreciated his honesty at that point. He told me what was in front of me, I accepted it and was able to do all those things. "There was probably a little of that 'I'll show you' like there is with every college athlete, but the main thing was he gave me a clear path, clarity as far as his message. He didn't mince or hold back words. I appreciated and respected him for it, because you know where you stand with Coach. "That's something you value, especially in this profession." Which was why Lee, coming off a master 's degree and having worked with state of Michigan governor Rick Snyder on his campaign — serving as a travel aide and policy/ communications staffer until April 2010 — was ready to give coaching a try. He was happy in his job with Ann Arbor SPARK as a business development manager, having already earned a reputation as an up and comer in his profession, but knowing Beilein wanted him was enough to convince him to join his former coach. He'd had the same gnawing feeling four years earlier when deciding to transfer from tiny Manhattan College in New York. Lee only averaged 0.4 points per game in two years, but that didn't prevent the Saginaw, Mich., native from going after his dream. He wanted to go to Michigan, like his father had before him, and walk on. Lee sent then-Michigan assistant coach Chuck Swenson an email. He became a valuable part of Tommy Amaker's scout team, and then Beilein's. He shagged the balls, got the water — and in doing so, also proved to be a pain in the starters' rears. Lee and fellow walkon Merritt proved too good to sit, and both eventually earned minutes. They also blossomed into great leaders, captaining the 2008-09 team that made the NCAA Tournament, U-M's first appearance since 1997‑98. "My pride from that team stems from the fact I was just part of it, just one of the pieces," Lee said. "It took work and sacrifice by the players and the staff to get there, but that was the goal. "Making the NCAA Tournament during that 2008-09 season is my best memory at Michigan. I was very blessed to be part of that team and co-captain." The current team is just as fortunate to have him, senior Matt Vogrich said prior to UM's national title game

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