Michael Lee spent his summer vacation in Lawrence -- instead of his hometown of Portland, Ore. -- pushing himself harder than ever before.
"My mind-set was: It's my senior year, and I needed to stay here to work every day to get better," said Lee, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior guard on Kansas University's basketball squad.
"I'd get up early to shoot, run, get in the weight room, go to class," Lee said. "I'd think about two things every day. My two goals this year are to win a national championship and graduate from college. There's a good chance both those things can happen."
A lean Lee, who was unable to train in Portland during the summer of 2003 because of a knee injury, caught the attention of KU coach Bill Self during the Jayhawks' first pre-Canada tour workout Aug. 19.
"Michael came back in the best condition and more prepared to practice than anybody else," Self said. "Michael is noticeably different from last year. He has better body shape, confidence, better game. It's his senior year. He wants to go out in style."
Lee's senior leadership showed in Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage at Horejsi Center when he hit a pair of deep jumpers to bust a 47-all tie with 1:30 left in the second quarter.
Those buckets sparked his team to victory.
"My legs are feeling good now. I think it's key for me, for my shots going in," Lee said.
Plagued by injuries a year ago, Lee averaged 5.5 points off 37.5 percent shooting in just 24 games. He made 35.4 percent of his threes after cashing 50 percent his sophomore season.
"It's a lot different for me," Lee said of this season. "Last year we were going through losing somebody that we developed a pretty good relationship playing for (Roy Williams) and were trying to develop a new relationship.
"That's hard to pick up. This year we know what to expect from coach Self. I think it will make it go a lot smoother. Instead of family and friends wanting to know how everything is going, this year you can chill and relax, play ball."
Lee insists he isn't stressing out about competition for playing time from newcomers Alex Galindo and Russell Robinson and an improved Jeremy Case.
"I think all the players are more than capable of being able to start and play a lot of minutes, depending on who shines the brightest earliest," Lee said. "For me, I expect to do everything I can to win. My goal is a national championship. Whatever it takes. If it's me being more vocal at practice, watching game tapes, anything."
As to how far KU will go this season ... "I don't like to make guarantees or try to make predictions," Lee said. "I'll work every day to win a national title. I think that's enough to say about that."¢
Bogus rumor: Somebody on a West coast Internet message board started a rumor that future KU shooting guard Micah Downs, a high school senior in Bothell, Wash., had decided to decommit to Kansas and reopen his recruiting.
Of course, the rumor was false.
"It would be great if you could straighten out these rumors for me," Downs told Shay Wildeboor of rivals.com. "I am going to Kansas and that is the truth. I am scheduled to attend a few games in Canada next week and am looking forward to that. I also know that coach Self is planning to come in for an in-home visit. Let the people know that my decision to attend Kansas is final."