January 11, 1998 in Sports

Stanford Guard Working On His Knight Moves

Steve Smyth Jr. Contra Costa Times

Arthur Lee was the last to arrive, strolling into the Stanford locker room to dress for Tuesday’s practice after most everybody else had already finished.

“You know,” an observer noted, “you’re getting more like Brevin (Knight) all the time.”

Lee offered a sheepish grin in return. He couldn’t fool anybody. Hey, you didn’t think his entrance was an accident, did you?

He studied Knight’s every move for two years, taking note of every nuance, every trick, every habit. It didn’t apply to just the basketball court.

Knight, the greatest point guard to ever play on The Farm, the school’s all-time leader in assists and steals, was the last to arrive for practice. Always. He was also the last guy out of the showers. One guess who the last guy out is these days.

Knight always spoke with self-assurance and confidence. When he said something, he sincerely believed it, even if it came off sounding a little cocky or full of bravado.

“I feel like we should go out and beat everyone we play,” Lee said as he changed Tuesday. “That’s the truth, with the depth we have here.”

Fortunately for Stanford, Lee picked up Knight’s basketball habits, too. He and his teammates have thus far been able to back up such boasts with outstanding play.

Lee has slowly taken charge of this Cardinal team, ranked seventh in the nation and on the brink of breaking school records for best start to a season and most consecutive wins in Maples Pavilion.

Stanford was 13-0 (2-0 Pac-10) going into Saturday’s game against California. The Cardinal could tie the first record and break the second with a win..

Knight graduated after leading Stanford to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament last season, leaving a void many felt couldn’t be filled. Lee has stepped in and handled himself with aplomb.

“Art is doing a great job,” coach Mike Montgomery said. “I couldn’t ask for more, really.”

That’s saying something because Montgomery always asks for more. He is the quintessential glass-half-empty type, and perfection is unattainable. Lee isn’t without fault, of course, but is perhaps exceeding expectations. He is averaging 10.6 points and 4.5 assists per game.

More importantly, he is getting the ball to the right people on offense, isn’t fazed by full-court pressure and plays terrific defense.

“Art has great tenacity; he is almost overly aggressive,” Montgomery said. “Sometimes he has to learn to back off. He can be stubborn. The Oregon game (Monday) was an example. Art kept taking the ball at people, expecting to get a call sooner or later, but he wasn’t going to get it that night, and he has to learn that.”

Blame Knight. He played the same way, and Lee is simply following in the footsteps of his mentor. Not blindly, of course. Lee definitely thought he was doing the right thing and told Montgomery so when they talked on the bench.

The junior has confidence, perhaps more than outsiders expected, which would explain why some are surprised by his immediate success.

“I don’t think too many people around here are surprised,” center Tim Young said. “Playing with Brevin helped a lot. We all knew that.”

Lee came to Stanford and went head-to-head with Knight every day in practice. It was the toughest thing he ever had to do.

“It was extremely frustrating,” Lee said. “Coming up through high school, you don’t face guys who dominate you. As a freshman, I had to go up against Brevin, who had two years of experience. He knew everything that needed to be done and was incredibly quick on top of that.”

You either learn or you continue to get dominated, Lee learned.

“Somebody mentioned me having to go up against (Rhode Island’s) Tyson Wheeler,” Lee said with a laugh. “That was nothing compared to Brevin. Playing him for two years, day in and day out, I have confidence no matter who I’m playing now.”

Confidence was never a problem for Lee. It wasn’t for Knight, either, and maybe it has something to do with their backgrounds. Knight hailed from New Jersey, while Lee grew up in Los Angeles.

Knight may be starring for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but Stanford still has a leader and a floor general. It’s a case of the same ingredients in a different package.

“As a team, I think we’re better than last year,” Lee said. “We lost Brevin and he was valuable - and valuable is an understatement. But we’ve realized the rest of us have another year of experience and we’re capable of stepping up and getting the job done.”

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