Sophomore guard Elijah Lee of the men's basketball team played
for a homeschool program called HCYA in Houston. He talks about his experience,
as well as his transition into college basketball, and how he's looking to
improve in his second season:
Q: I understand you were homeschooled in Houston. How did it help your athletic career?
A: I got pulled out in the fifth grade before I went to middle school for academic reasons. Then I discovered a homeschool program called HCYA, which was the Homeschool Christian Youth Association and I fell in love with it. If it wasn't for this program I probably would've gone to public high school. Initially I was skeptical about the number of opportunities I would have in homeschool basketball, but surprisingly, there was a lot of talent in the program that I was in. We even got to travel a lot and play some pretty good teams so I think the exposure I got being a part of that team was amazing.
Q: Why did you choose to come to Pepperdine?
A: I think Coach Amaral discovered me first at a tournament in Dallas and then got the rest of the staff's attention. Finally Coach Wilson ended up recruiting me at a tournament in Las Vegas. I was approached by other schools but I'd have to say Pepperdine was the best and I was most excited about this offer. I knew a little bit about the school from before and I'd always heard good things about it but I didn't really know enough until after Coach offered me. That's when I started doing my research and when I did, I was pretty excited about it, so I think coming here was definitely high up on my list.
Q: How has your experience being a student-athlete at Pepperdine been so far?
A: It's been really great. Last year we didn't have the best season. But personally I wouldn't trade it for the world just because of how I've grown as an individual. I think I learned a lot from last year and I even think it'll help me a lot coming into this new year because I think now I'll feel more comfortable. This is just speaking in terms of athletics.
In terms of academics, I couldn't have asked for anything better, being a student-athlete. I love how small the classrooms are here because I get to have a personal relationship with all my professors and being that there's about 3,500 undergraduates here, you can develop close relationships with the students around here pretty easily. And last season, the older guys did a good job of accepting me and the rest of the freshmen and making us feel welcome so I've really loved it here and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
Q: Are you excited for this season? How is the team coming together with so many new players?
A: I am amped for this season. The new freshmen are super enthusiastic and energetic. I feel the same way. We have returning sophomores and we have some great experience with Amadi (Udenyi) and Matthew Atewe, who's a transfer. We also have some players who are older so I think we've got a great mixture of young guys and old guys. We all have a great bond off the court right now and I feel that'll carry over onto the court. We've also got some great talent this year so I'm really looking forward to it.
The guys coming in do have some stuff to figure out in terms of terminology and other things of that nature, but they are picking it up pretty quickly. I think once they get adjusted to all of those little things and just in general, once we get used to playing with each other, we'll flow a lot better as a team. But I'm not worried, I think it'll come maybe after a few weeks of practice when we'll get a better idea of that.
Q: How has the training been going so far?
A: So our coach has always had a winning mentality but this summer was even more so. This summer had a kind of competitive theme. Basically what that meant was that everything we did was something we were competing in, whether it was in the weight room or in the gym. We were competing against each other but just trying to make each other better in that regard. Outside of training we got into our first official practice on (Sept. 30) and they said that that was one of the best practices they've had since they've been here together as a staff and they were pretty excited about that and so were we. We know some things need fixing but that'll come with time. So I'm not worried and I think the positives that've been shown so far are definitely some things to be excited about.
Q: Your first game is in a month, how are you feeling about it?
A: Our first game is on November 10th and the whole team is just counting down days and we just can't wait. I think it's going to be an exciting game. We're going to be going to Oklahoma State, which is a pretty good team, so we're all really looking forward to it.
Q: Are you excited about Blue & Orange Madness this year and how was your experience last year?
A: I am super excited. I can't wait for Blue and Orange and to get a chance to see all the new students that are going to come out, hopefully. We want to get more fans in the stands this year and we're hoping to make a good impression on them as a team so it's definitely a really fun time of the year. As a freshman, it was really exciting because I'd never had the chance to play a college game before and even though it wasn't exactly a college game, it was just a chance to get my feet wet and get an idea of what it would be like to be a college athlete. So I'm looking forward to it this year and I'm looking forward to reliving the experience through the new freshmen.
Q: What kind of improvement do you expect to make going from your freshman to sophomore year?
A: I think maturity is a big deal. Coming in as a freshman, I had a few things thrown at me that I wasn't exactly expecting. Stress and school did play a part in it. Coach Wilson and the rest of the staff did a good job in understanding that the transition from high school to college was a weight on my shoulders. Being able to handle all the academics at Pepperdine wasn't easy because it is not a school to be taken lightly. But just finding the balance of when to get in the gym and when to study as well as how to study was something that I had to learn and I wish I would've handled it better. That being said, I'm glad that I went through it because it exposed me to some weaknesses in my game. So basically I want to learn from those mistakes from last year and improve on how to think in the game instead of just reacting.
Q: Being from Houston, how are you dealing with the hurricane that recently hit the city?
A: Initially I had my flight to L.A. scheduled on the 26th, if I've got the date correctly. Then I had to reschedule it because the storm was hitting earlier than expected, and so, if I remember correctly, I flew out on the 25th instead. Basically, I made it out right in time because it had started storming and later that day, I found out that a lot of the flights were getting cancelled and weren't flying for about a week, so I got lucky. Coming out here and being away from Houston when all of that was going on was kind of disturbing because it is my city and I have all my family and friends there. Coach Wilson and the staff were making sure that I was checking up on them and they were helping me a lot, which was greatly appreciated. Luckily, my immediate family wasn't affected. A few of my cousins were affected by it but fortunately they all handled it well and I kept them all in my prayers and it's all okay now.