Basketball: UCLA’s Lee tests NBA waters; WSU season ends with a thud in NIT semifinals

UCLA junior guard Malcolm Lee became the third Pac-10 player to add his name to the NBA draft early entry list, but Lee gave himself a backdoor. Unlike USC’s Nikola Vucevic and UCLA’s Tyler Honeycutt, who both jumped in with both feet, Lee said he will not hire an agent, giving him the option of returning to Westwood.

Here’s the full story from the Los Angeles Times.

— Meanwhile, Washington State (22-13) was crushed 75-44 by Wichita State in the semifinals of the NIT at Madison Square Garden. The Cougars shot 29 percent from the field, missed all 10 of their 3-pointers, were outrebounded 52-25 and outscored 48-18 in the paint.

“I thought we would play a lot better, but that’s life. You have to deal with it,” said junior Klay Thompson, the Pac-10 scoring leader who was held to six points on 1-for-10 shooting. “You can’t look back now. We played really bad … It’s even worse because it’s on a big stage. It was for a tournament championship, or a chance at one. And, yeah, it really hurts. It’s not a good feeling.”

Thompson could be the next Pac-10 player to make an announcement about his basketball future.

— Or it could be Arizona’s Derrick Williams, whose NBA draft stock continued to rise with his performance in the NCAA tournament.

“People watch and were saying the Pac-10 was down this year so it was good for him to go up against other teams and do what he’s been doing all year,” Jonathan Givony of Draft Express told the Arizona Daily Star’s Bruce Pascoe. 

“Those dunks and threes against Duke — he’s done that before, but when you do that on that stage, it really sends a message. The Duke game was an incredibly dominant performance.”

Givony said he plans to rank Williams at No. 2 in his next mock draft. The sophomore forward has not indicated his plans for next season.

— The definition of frustration: One-time Monte Vista HS star Cory Higgins — son of the former Warriors forward — scored 13 points in Colorado’s 62-61 loss to Alabama in the NIT semifinals. Not only did the Buffaloes lose by one point, but Higgins finished his career with 2,001 — one point shy of breaking Richard Roby’s school record. Higgins wound up tying the record.

Jeff Faraudo