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Marcus Lee Down to Kentucky and California

Five-star 2013 center Marcus Lee cuts Louisville from list of finalists, down to the Wildcats and hometown Golden Bears.

Andy Lyons - Getty Images

2013 center Marcus Lee, a five-star big man from Antioch (Cal.) Deer Valley, has reportedly cut the Louisville Cardinals from his list of finalists. That leaves just two schools, the Kentucky Wildcats and the California Golden Bears, as his finalists.

The news was somewhat unsurprising, given that Louisville had just picked up a commitment from Akoy Agau, a power forward from Omaha (Neb.) Central. Further, Louisville is already oversigned for the 2013-14 season, leaving no margin for Rick Pitino to also make a viable pitch to Lee.

What is somewhat surprising is how Kentucky found itself in squarely in the mix for Lee's services. Lee exploded onto the recruiting scene this spring, earning offers from big time schools like schools like Duke, Kansas, and Indiana. He rose to five-star status on some recruiting rankings after strong performances on the AAU circuit with his grassroots team, California Supreme.

Despite hearing from major programs across the nation, it always appeared that Lee preferred to stay on the West Coast, with offers from California and UCLA in his hip pocket. It truly is a testament to the power of the "Kentucky Effect" that the Wildcats are in this race at all. Amazingly, John Calipari just offered Lee on September 16, after conducting an in-home visit. It should be noted that the offer had been expected by Lee and his family for some time.

Following that visit, Calipari has apparently doubled down on trying to land Lee. Calipari and assistants Orlando Antigua and Kenny Payne chose to conduct a follow-up visit yesterday, making quite clear just how important Lee is to the program. The coaches were in attendance to watch Lee work out at his high school.

With projected starting center Nerlens Noel a surefire first rounder, and backup center Willie Cauley-Stein climbing up the draft boards, Calipari may be looking to reload at the 5 for the 2013-14 season. The coaching staff apparently feels like Lee would be a perfect fit to man the middle for next year's Cats.

Kentucky is still playing catch-up in Lee's recruitment, but has one more chance to make a statement. Lee will visit Kentucky for Big Blue Madness, where the staff, players, and fanbase can put on a full court press. To forewarn, Madness attendance is not always a guarantee of future selection. Last year, Kentucky landed Big Blue Madness attendees Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Cauley-Stein, but lost out on Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA) and DaJuan Coleman (Syracuse).

While Lee has yet to officially visit California, he is already quite familiar with the school, making it quite possible that Big Blue Madness is the last visit he takes before making a fall decision. Go get 'em, coach.