David Lee Making a Name for Himself with U.S. Men
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
ANAHEIM, Calif. (June 5, 2008) - If you plug David Lee's name into Google, your first few links will be for an NBA player.
If you go to Wikipedia.com and enter David Lee's name, you will find profiles on American, Irish and Singaporean football players, a physicist, a sound mixer, a DJ and even an "information architect."
But no volleyball player is listed.
So who the heck is David Lee?
He's the 6-foot-8, 26-year-old middle blocker for the U.S. Men's National Volleyball Team who has learned the hard way that if you let your play do your talking, people will want to find out the rest on their own.
Lee and the rest of the U.S. Men's National Team will be hitting the road next week to begin World League play on June 13-14 in Finland. That will be followed by matches in the United States on June 20-21 (vs. Bulgaria in Hoffman Estates, Ill.) and June 27-28 (vs. Finland in Green Bay, Wis.). After a July 4th weekend in Spain, the U.S. Men will return to the United States to play Spain on July 11-12 in Bloomington, Ill.
Lee is part of a group of players in their 20s - including setter Kevin Hansen and outside hitters Sean Rooney and Scott Touzinsky - who have received more and more playing time with the U.S. Men in 2007 and 2008.
Lee remembers the frustration he felt in 2006 when he played in only six of 12 World League matches and wasn't part of the World Championship team. But Lee had learned during his college playing days at Long Beach State in California that sometimes it is better speak softly and put up a big block.
Lee chose Long Beach State because he thought the team could win a national title his freshman year. It didn't happen, and the following year the team was in a rebuilding phase after losing top seniors. Lee found himself the sophomore captain of a team that wasn't playing very well, but tried to make up for it in other ways.
"We talked a lot of trash. It wasn't nice trash. It wasn't competitive. It was mean and hurtful," he said. "Finally, my coach (Alan Knipe) took me aside and told me to chill out and play and lead the team by example."
Lee took the advice to heart and was invited to play on the 2003 World University Games team, which won a bronze medal. In Lee's senior season in 2004, the 49ers made it to the NCAA final where they lost, 3-2, to BYU.
Lee was named a first-team All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association and thought the U.S. Men's National Team would be calling him any day to try out. But the call never came.
"I went to Puerto Rico for the summer," Lee said. "I played in Portugal for a year and I played in Indonesia for a month where we won the national championship. The only championship I have is from Indonesia."
Lee finally got his chance to train and compete with the U.S. National Team in 2005. He played just 65 of 119 sets during the year, but still finished second in total blocks with 59. He also finished second in blocks per set (0.91) and fifth in total points with 162.
But in 2006, he found himself sitting the bench watching the team struggle with 10th-place finishes in World League and at the World Championship.
"The thing with this team is it's very much about seniority and the struggle to get in," Lee said. "I thought I could do some things to help the team win if I got a chance."
Lee tried to stay patient and wait for his opportunity. In 2007, he played in all but two World League matches and made the team for the final round, where the U.S. Men won the bronze medal. Lee was the United States' leading blocker and 10th overall in the final round of World League where he was credited with an average of 0.43 blocks per set.
A week after the World League final round in Poland, Lee traveled to Brazil to play with a younger U.S. team at the Pan American Games. He finished the tournament as top U.S. blocker and second overall with an average of 0.75 blocks per set as the team won the silver medal.
After that, Lee became a part-time starter (sharing time with Tom Hoff) for the U.S. Men at the NORCECA Continental Championship, which the U.S. Men won, the World Cup, where they finished fourth, and the NORCECA Continental Olympic Qualifier, which they also won.
He finished the 2007 season second on the team in stuff blocks with 69 for an average of 0.67 blocks per set. He was sixth on the team in scoring with 230 points
"David has a good feel for blocking and he's very quick with his feet and hands," U.S. Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon said. "He's very efficient as a blocker. He's also a big, strong lad and can hit a heavy ball as well."
Away from the court, Lee likes to surf, cook meat on the grill and spend time with his family in Alpine, Calif., near San Diego, where he grew up playing volleyball at Granite Hills High School and for the Seaside Volleyball Club.
He hopes he continues to improve and have more playing time with the National Team. But he also knows it's up to him to continue to make a name for himself.
"This isn't only about my career professionally. It's about the team," he said. "Whoever is the best player should play."
WORLD LEAGUE TICKETS: Tickets for the FIVB World League matches in Hoffman Estates, Ill. (June 20-21 vs. Bulgaria), Green Bay, Wis. (June 27-28 vs. Finland) and Bloomington, Ill. (July 11-12 vs. Spain) are now on sale. To purchase tickets, go to the USA Volleyball World League site at www.usavolleyball.org/national/08WL.asp.