Net rookie Lee sees no cons in pro career

March 25, 1991|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Evening Sun Staff

Negatives don't have a place in the life of former Towson State guard Kurk Lee, who will be with the New Jersey Nets tonight when they meet the Washington Bullets at the Capital Centre.

Call him up. Ask him how he is doing.

"I love it here," he says. "I love the system. I love the coaching staff and they have very good confidence in me."

Facing long odds as a walk-on last summer, Kurk Lee is happy just to be a member of the Nets. And he's glad to be back on the court after a severely bruised knee forced him on to the disabled list Feb. 16 until last Wednesday.

Christine Lee, Kurk's mother, laughs when she hears how positive he is.

"He had hoped to make the team in San Antonio," recalls Mrs. Lee, who works for the government and is involved with preparations for troops returning from the Persian Gulf.

"Kurk played in their summer league and he was very depressed when he didn't make that team," she recalls. "But when he went to the Nets, I told him that when he called home, he should only have positive things to say. When asked, 'How are you doing?' Say 'Fine.' When asked, 'What are you doing?' Say, 'Working hard.' I tell Kurk and all my children [five, of which Kurk is the youngest], that God helped them get where they are and he'll keep helping them."

Kurk Lee has always thought positively. From the time he was old enough to get outside his Lafayette Projects apartment by himself, everyone knew where to find him.

"By 7 a.m. every morning, Kurk would be done with his chores and on the basketball court," says his mother, who has since moved her family to Madison Street. "We'd be sleeping and he'd be playing basketball. All he ever talked about, when he was little, was how he was going to play in the NBA."

Being in the NBA is living a dream, he says now, recalling walking onto the court at the Meadowlands and earning a spot on the Nets' roster.

"They teased me about being from this little school no one had ever heard of," he says. "But that's stopped now. Towson has played well in two NCAA tournaments and I've earned their respect. The key is how you play. I earned a spot. Until I got hurt, I was the first guard off the bench for Mookie [Blaylock]. I felt very comfortable."

But then came the February game with Denver, when Lee's right knee banged into the knee of the Nuggets' Chris Jackson.

"I wasn't prepared for getting hurt," says the former TSU star, who was averaging 1.5 points in his backup role and had two against Cleveland Saturday. "I wanted to be healthy. But once I got hurt, I realized you can't let that get you down. You can't let it be your downfall. I had been trying hard and I just told myself this wouldn't stop me. I worked hard and I'm back and I'm happy to be back."

At Towson, Lee finished as the school's fourth all-time leading scorer, while setting records for single-season scoring (805 points), points per game (26), free throws made (172) and attempted (209), three-point field goals made (80) and attempted (228), and he was East Coast Conference Player of the Year in both his junior and senior seasons.

Now he is a rookie, sitting on the bench, biding his time.

"The last time we came to play the Bullets, I didn't get in the game," he says. "I don't know if I'll get in this time or not. But it's not frustrating. I've said to myself, 'Wake up, this is the NBA.' I know there are a lot of guys in this league who have been here a lot longer than me sitting on the bench.

"At Towson State I had two goals: to get my degree and make the NBA. Now I have two more: to stay healthy and do the best I can."

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