Daily Short-hOPT: Next Man Up

“I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.” – Mae West

To say that Marcus Lee had a less than expected road this season would be putting it mildly. Coming to the University of Kentucky as a top high school prospect from Antioch, California, and joining what many coined “the greatest recruiting class ever assembled” was supposed to be easier than this. At 6-feet 9-inches tall, a rebounding machine, and the ability to jump out of the gym, Lee surely felt that he was on the way to having an impact freshman campaign for the Wildcats.

But, let’s rewind for a second.

Prior to Sunday afternoon, Lee did not play (DNP) or played five minutes or less in 28 of Kentucky’s 37 games. In Southeastern Conference play, he appeared in nine of the eighteen games for a grand total of 39 minutes. If you count the conference postseason, he appeared in eleven games (47 minutes of action), and did not play at all in ten games. In the first three games of the NCAA Tournament, he logged two more DNPs and 1 minute of action in the one game in which he did appear. From November 28, 2013, through March 29, 2014, in exactly thirty team games played for the Wildcats, Lee scored just nine points…total.

Then, Sunday happened.

With one player injured and Kentucky in need of someone to step in, it was “Next man up.” And, there was Marcus Lee. His stat line read:

15 Minutes, 5-of-7 Shooting, 8 Rebounds (7 Offensive), 2 Blocks, 10 Points, 4 Putback Dunks

That spark along with a dramatic last second three pointer sent the a Kentucky Wildcats to its third Final Four in four years. That 15 minutes earned Lee a spot on the Mideast Regional All-Tournament Team.

Life has a great way of creating opportunities for success. If you are patient and ready for them, those moments become yours for the taking. If you sit around thinking nothing good will ever come your way, the moment passes you by and becomes someone else’s opportunity.

As a young athlete, there is so much to learn from the freshman season of Marcus Lee. Imagine if he had complained, sulked, gotten angry. Imagine if he had felt entitled because he was a top prospect. Imagine if he had phoned it in and just thought this year would never be his year. Imagine if he had gotten angry and voiced his opinions to the coaching staff or worse, the media. If so, Marcus Lee never gets to write his story’s ending.

Instead, Lee continued to work. He continued to learn. He continued to get better. He logged the hours of sweat and dedication in the gym and the classroom. He remained an exceptional teammate. He said nothing, and by doing so, it said so much.

Too many times, this scenario plays out in the lives of many in our society. We and/or our parents believe we should be a starter on the team, but the coaches or the lineup card says something different. We believe we are the best person for the new job or promotion, but the hiring manager goes in a different direction.

Oftentimes, the story ends poorly. The player makes every excuse for why he is not playing or not playing well. He refuses to be accountable for his part in the story and either gives up or quits while he and the parents blame the coaches for his failures. The employee decides to quit the job he has because he did not get the promotion or he falls back into the previous position he held and begins to simply go through the motions wondering why he should even bother if it will not lead to anything.

Why don’t we take control of how our story ends? It may take some patience. It may take some effort. It may take some sacrifice. It may take seizing an opportunity that we have waited and prepared for. It may not always be easy.

But, I can promise you this. It will be worth it. (Just ask Marcus.)

Bring your best today!

Love, Noah

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