Davidson sharpshooter Hyunjung Lee will be a name to watch in NBA Draft circles in the months to come. Find out what makes the South Korean native special.
On college basketball’s opening night, while most of the country was locked into the heavyweight Duke-Kentucky-Kansas-Michigan State Champions Classic, more than 200 other D-1 teams were in action, providing highlights along the way.
The Heat Check CBB prides itself on covering college basketball from coast to coast, discovering the sport’s hidden gems. One of the players not getting enough attention nationally is Davidson’s Hyunjung Lee, a name to watch this season out of the Atlantic 10.
Who is Hyunjung Lee?
Lee is a 6-7 junior wing for Davidson College from Seongnam, South Korea. Last season, he was the first player in Davidson history — keep in mind this is where Steph Curry played —to finish a season shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three, and 90 percent from the free-throw line.
Lee’s percentages, along with his 13.5 points per game, have propelled him onto the NBA draft radar. After his success last season and a summer playing with the South Korean national team, Lee continues to develop his game.
In Davidon’s season-opening win vs. Delaware, he logged 29 minutes, recording 15 points (5-of-9 from the field, 3-of-3 from three), five rebounds, five assists and a block.
“We have him coming off handoffs; we posted him up a couple of times — he puts it on the floor,” Davidson head coach Bob McKillop said. “He is so efficient at throwing the ball over people; he was five assists to no turnovers tonight. We are using him on ball screens and handoffs; he is really a guard.”
Hyunjung Lee’s background
Currently, Lee is the only player in D-1 basketball from South Korea. Davidson has a diverse roster with six different players born overseas, each from different countries. While he visited Washington State because of his love of Klay Thompson, Lee remembers vividly what stood out about Davidson.
“When I was visiting schools, most of the coaches would tell me they like my game, and I could play well for them,” Lee said. “Coach McKillop told me that if you come here and work hard, you will have a chance. I loved that.”
Lee has excellent size and moves fluidly on the floor. While he isn’t a vertical athlete by NBA standards, he moves well laterally and his basketball IQ allows him to find the proper spots on defense. Lee sees the game at a high level and he has a great understanding of his team’s concepts and what they are trying to accomplish.
Even with the success Lee experienced last season, playing with his national team this summer showed him room for growth.
“I played for my national team this summer,” Lee said. “In one of the games we played against Lithuania and we lost by 40. After that game, it got me thinking about how weak I am. I needed to get more mentally prepared for games; when the refs called a bad call, I always showed my reaction. I also worked on my strength all summer.”
The advanced numbers back up Lee’s percentages, scoring productively and efficiently. Last season, Lee scored 1.156 points per possession — in the 97th percentile — considered ‘excellent’ by Synergy’s metrics.
Lee kept elite company with Corey Kispert and Drew Timme as one of only six players in D-1 who finished last season with a player efficiency rating above 23, a usage percentage above 21, and an offensive rating above 128.
In his two seasons at Davidson, Lee has never been the focal point. He has always had running mates, proven that he could play a “Robin” role. This 2021-22 Davidson team will be Lee’s to guide. The Wildcats lost leading scorer and 2,000-point career scorer Kellan Grady and their third-leading scorer Carter Collins to the graduate transfer market.
While it was Michigan State transfer Foster Loyer’s 27 points that led the way against Delaware on Tuesday, the offense ran through Lee most of the night. Davidson did an excellent job of lining up Lee at multiple spots on the floor. Many possessions, he was the primary initiator, bringing the ball across halfcourt and getting his team into sets. He made great reads from the mid-post and especially from the wing.
Lee and Loyer will be great compliments for one another as they can both handle, pass and shoot. Senior Luka Brajkovic returns in the post, and sophomore forward Sam Mennenga finished with a workman-like double-double in the season opener. Even with eight or nine-man rotations, Lee will be the primary outlet.
More so, scouts will see if he can be the focal point of an offense and still produce. Lee will need to continue developing his handle, but he can grab and go off defensive rebounds. His footwork is excellent in the halfcourt, and he has the patience to get into a one/two-dribble pull-up off a sloppy closeout. The shooting is accurate, the IQ is confirmed, and the size is legit.
Taking his game to the next level
“This summer, my biggest growth was my mental; my mentality,” Lee said. “I saw, playing for the national team, that I am here (lowering hand below waist) and there are players who are up here (raises hand to eye level). Right now, when I am shooting, every time I am 0-for-0 — everything is about this play, not the last play, not the next play — this play.”
On Day 1, consider it a success. Lee confidently and efficiently showcased a diverse game as he had an offense run through him. He’s poised to become Davidson’s new leader.