You can call him ‘Big Idaho’ or the ‘Quickie Monster,’ but most of all you can say BYU’s Kolby Lee is an effective, improved big man
Redshirt sophomore has mastered the art of the ‘quick,’ a fast shot that gets to the basket before opposing centers are able to block it and a big reason why the Idahoan is admirably filling in for injured teammate Yoeli Childs
PROVO — He runs with his shoulders hunched, sort of like he’s got a piano on his back. Perhaps he should be playing on football coach Kalani Sitake’s offensive line.
Kolby Lee doesn’t exactly look the part of a BYU basketball player — he’s more plow horse than thoroughbred — but he gets the job done, so much so that the 6-foot-9, 240-pound sophomore has filled in admirably as fellow inside players Yoeli Childs and Gavin Baxter have missed all or most of the 2019-20 season.
“I guess I’ve been doing some good things, but there’s always room to improve,” Lee said last week, the day before he scored a career-high 21 points on 8 of 8 shooting in BYU’s 93-70 win over San Diego.
Yes, the former Gatorade Boys Basketball Player of the Year at Rocky Mountain High in Meridian, Idaho, is adept at understatements as well. Without his somewhat surprising contributions this season, the Cougars wouldn’t be 14-6 overall and tied for second in the West Coast Conference race with a 3-2 record after last Saturday’s discouraging 92-69 loss to No. 1 Gonzaga (now No. 2).
“He’s been unbelievable, even spectacular, at times,” said head coach Mark Pope, who actually saw this coming, even if nobody else did.
“He’s been unbelievable, even spectacular, at times.” — BYU coach Mark Pope
When Pope announced over the summer that Lee was going to “shock the world” this season, it was chalked up by many who watched the Idahoan play sparingly in 2018-19 and average just 1.4 points and a rebound as just more hyperbole from the ever-loquacious Pope.
But the guy teammates refer to as “Big Idaho” or “Big Kolb” or “Big Potato” or the “Quickie Monster” has lived up to that billing. He’s averaging 8.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in 19.1 minutes per game heading into Thursday’s 8 p.m. MST game at surprising Pacific (3-2, 15-6), which is tied for second in the WCC with the Cougars, San Francisco and Saint Mary’s.
Those first three nicknames are obvious, but the fourth needs an explanation, because “no one really understands it,” Lee said, crediting assistant coach Chris Burgess for developing the technique.
“A lot of times in games you will see me shoot that little quick shot,” he continued. “It is called a quick. They call me Quickie Monster because I shoot so many of them, and it is really quick, and I’m a monster because I am getting good at it.”
Lee is shooting 63.7 from the field, an impressive number bolstered by the perfect outing against the Toreros. That tied him for the third-most makes without a miss in a single game in BYU history.
He had shown the capability against quality competition at the Maui Invitational, going 6 of 7 against UCLA, 6 of 8 against Kansas and 5 of 5 against Virginia Tech.
He was 4 of 4 in the 87-84 loss at SMC and 4 of 6 last Saturday against the once-beaten Zags (20-1), pushing his shooting percentage in conference games to 74.2, best in the league.
“The quick shot saves time, energy and effort,” Lee said. “I have a good touch for a big man. … You can ask Yoeli. He gets really mad (in practice) because I get it up there fast and he can’t block it.”
He’s also a decent outside shooter for a big man, having made 5 of 10 3-point attempts.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” said teammate and fellow Idahoan Connor Harding. “He’s always had a nice touch around the rim. It looks like he just throws it up there, but it seems to go in every single time.”
Lee said he used to do what a lot of post players do when they get the ball down low — try to dribble and get their feet set before going up. Then Burgess, the former Duke and University of Utah standout, came along with Pope from Utah Valley and showed him a better way.
“Coach Burgess has helped my game in so many ways,” Lee said. “Just changed it for the better. We work on quicks every single day, just getting the ball out of my hands. I am no longer just a big bruiser with a soft touch. I am becoming a more complete inside player.”
Pope has even gone so far as to compare him to Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic — he’s not a leaper or overly athletic, but he flourishes in other areas.
“He is willing to stay in the wheelhouse of what makes him good,” Pope said. “Most players are so eager to get outside of the space of where they look really good, that they spend a lot of time looking really bad.”
Lee takes a different approach, an approach that is as different as his gait up and down the court.
“He is not going to shoot threes all game and he is not going to dunk on guys and he is not going to cross people up,” Pope said. “He is going to keep shooting quicks for the rest of his career and make a bunch of money, and all the girls are going to love him because all he does is he stays in his wheelhouse, right? That’s all he does, and it is making him really successful.”
And the owner of some really cool nicknames.
BYU big man Kolby Lee
• Six-foot-9, 240-pound sophomore is averaging 8.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game
• Scored a career-high 21 points on 8 of 8 shooting in 93-70 win over San Diego
• Was the 2017 Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year at Rocky Mountain High in Meridian, Idaho
• Averaged 16.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game his senior year of high school
BYU coach Mark Pope on Kolby Lee’s big night in 93-70 win over San Diego on Thursday night. pic.twitter.com/t8WU2kVqDy— Jay Drew (@drewjay) January 17, 2020
Kolby Lee and Connor Harding describe “Big Idaho’s” big game pic.twitter.com/2nqK3wIDls— Jay Drew (@drewjay) January 17, 2020