Charles Lee's Lessons Learned
Feb. 14, 2006
By Jillian Jakuba, Bucknell Athletic Communications
Coming to college is a major adjustment for any freshman, but making the transition as a student-athlete is doubly tricky. Not only is the environment in the classroom more challenging, but then throw more practice, strength training, film sessions and games into the mix and it seems miraculous that any college athlete makes in through that first semester. This all makes it understandable that senior forward Charles Lee stepped away from the basketball court second semester of his freshman year to concentrate more on his grades. What makes Lee extraordinary is how he bounced back and took away all he could from the experience.
Lee was excited to come to Bucknell as a freshman. He was impressed with the tight-knit community, the basketball coaching staff, the quality of the academics, while the proximity to his native Gaithersburg, Md., was also part of what made the university an attractive choice for both him and his parents.
"My mom felt that it was close enough to home that she could come and visit whenever she got lonely," says Lee. "My parents loved that they would be able to come to a lot of the games."
So naturally when the decision was made that Lee would not be playing the second half of the 2002-03 season, his initial thoughts were focused on how his parents would react.
"I felt that not only did I let myself down, but that I let my parents down as well," comments Lee.
But everyone around Lee -- his parents, coaches, teammates and friends -- were all far from disappointed in him, or judgmental.
"Not only were my parents extremely supportive, but so were my teammates and coaches. Coach Flannery and his staff did everything possible for me to keep focus and I am extremely appreciative of that," says Lee. "The support that I had around me and the inner desire within myself to prove that I could do better, gave me confidence and kept me focused. I really had to mature in a heart beat or I was not going to be able to continue to study at this fine university. I learned that if I was going to participate in the game that I love so much, then I was going to have to do more than just put my time in at the gym but also up in the academic quad."
Lee spent his time off reflecting and developing a plan for himself academically. He set goals and focused on them, but also came away with a better self understanding.
"I think that I learned how much determination and focus I really have," comments Lee. "At that time, I didn't know how to be focused on both basketball and school. But I quickly learned that they both deserve a lot of time. Now I find myself staying focused in everything I do and just extremely determined to succeed and put my best foot forward."
Clearly Lee's plan worked, as the management major finished the first semester of his senior year with a 3.4 GPA, and now the two-year captain seems determined to use what he went through as a freshman to be the best leader and mentor to younger players that he possibly can.
"I would like to hope that I have been very helpful in the younger players' transition from high school to college," states Lee. "I often sit them down and teach them numerous things that will help them during their collegiate careers. I think that is just what happens at Bucknell. When I came in the older guys helped me a lot."
His role as a captain may be just what was needed to help Lee keep focused, as he has thrived both on and off the court. Since his semester off as a freshman, Lee has become a force in the Patriot League and is a two-time All-League performer. As a junior in 2004-05, Lee was named the Patriot League Tournament MVP, started all 33 games and ranked fourth in the league with 6.4 rebounds per game. His success has continued this season as he once again ranks among the league's top rebounders and has averaged 12.2 points per game through the team's first 23 contests.
"Coming out of the predicament that I did, to know that I have won over 13 guys is amazing," says Lee. "It gives me so much confidence and keeps me spirited because I do not want to let them down at all."
Lee has done all he can to lead by example and wishes to instill in the underclassmen the idea that success comes from hard work and self discipline, but seems adamant that the younger players have done as much for him in his development as he has tried to help them with theirs.
"They are a huge reason why I was able to get refocused," Lee comments.
Now in the home stretch of an eventful college career, Lee, appreciative of all his coaches and teammates have done for him, hopes he has left his impression on the Bucknell basketball program.
"I would like to be remembered for more than just my athletic ability but for the type of person I am. Hopefully when I leave this place I will be remembered as not only one of the best athletes but also as one of the best people."
Lee's resilient personality seems to guarantee his remarkable story will carry on as an inspiration to incoming freshmen for years to come.