After Anthony Lee graduated from Temple and joined the Ohio State men’s basketball program, coach Thad Matta said he had a good idea of what Lee brings to the table.
“I think Anthony is a guy that plays with great energy,” Matta said during an Oct. 8 interview with The Lantern. “He has like a sixth sense for finding the basketball, be it rebounding or cutting, whatever it is.”
At the time, Matta said the Buckeyes were going to need Lee, who is now a graduate student at OSU, to make an impact this season.
“From that position with his length, his athleticism, we’re going to need him to elevate the energy down in the paint and hopefully be able to step out a little bit for us,” he said.
But Lee, who averaged 13.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game in his final season with the Owls, spent more time on the bench than on the floor to start off his Buckeye career. He played 16 minutes in the season opener and scored 13 points, then played at least 10 minutes in each of the next eight games.
During that stretch, Lee had at most eight points, and finished just one game with more than four rebounds. He played just nine minutes in a loss to North Carolina, then totaled eight minutes and no points in a win against Miami (Ohio) and a loss to Iowa.
After scoring five points in a 16-point win against Illinois on Jan. 3, Lee didn’t score in the next four games, but then his role changed.
Against Northwestern on Jan. 22, Lee was in the starting lineup in place of senior center Amir Williams, and he played a season-high 22 minutes. After that start, Lee started against Indiana and Maryland as well, making three starts and three wins for the Buckeyes.
Since Lee paved his way into the lineup, Matta said he has become the player he hoped for going into the season.
“I think that Anthony has finally settled in to what we needed him to be, and that’s bouncy, energetic, finish-around-the-rim, finish-strong type of guy,” Matta said Tuesday.
The coach added that Lee was “a little bit shell-shocked” when he got to Columbus.
“To his credit, he stayed and he has done a lot of extra work and I think he’s playing really good basketball for us right now,” Matta said.
Lee conceded that there were “some challenges” when he got to OSU, but added he’s trying to do anything he has to help the team.
“Just knowing what I have to do to stay on the court for certain things,” Lee said Tuesday. “Just whatever I can give, whatever coach asks of me.”
Since entering the lineup, Lee hasn’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboard. Northwestern was his most productive game, with eight points on 4-for-4 shooting and three rebounds, and he chipped in with six points and five rebounds against Maryland. But despite starting, Lee played only two minutes against Indiana because OSU opted for a smaller lineup — senior center Trey McDonald played just four minutes and Williams didn’t leave the bench.
But regardless of his production so far this season, Lee said he knows he can be a scorer, and just needs to keep his mindset right to be more productive going forward.
“I’m still very confident in my abilities,” he said. “I know what I’ve been able to do, so it’s just about getting the opportunities and not rushing. Knowing, ‘OK, just take this opportunity, one chance at a time, and just capitalize.’ And then you’ll get more.”
Lee’s next shot to capitalize on his opportunities is set to come Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. when the Buckeyes take on Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind.