Damion Lee shook his head as he looked at his iPhone, which buzzed for a third time as it rested on the windowsill next to his seat in the Daskalakis Athletic Center.
“It’s nuts,” he said. His phone had been abuzz all day.
Lee was walking the halls of the athletic center March 30, a few hours after news broke that he has decided to leave Drexel University upon his graduation this June and spend his last year of athletic eligibility playing basketball elsewhere.
He’s unsure of where he’ll be heading come this summer. “I don’t want to get into saying anything like that just yet,” he explained, intent on keeping his cards close to the vest. He plans on keeping his recruitment low. “I’m going to make a couple of visits, take some time to think and reflect, and we’ll see what happens.”
But one thing’s for sure. Lee won’t play another minute as a Drexel Dragon after spending the past four years in University City and becoming one of the most lauded players in program history.
Lee said he didn’t begin to think about the idea of transferring until late February, when he broke his hand in a game against Northeastern University Feb. 21.
His main goal, he said, was to “just play a full, healthy season, something I hadn’t done in 20 months.”
He asserted that there was never the thought of transferring after this season before he injured his hand against the huskies. His main goal, he said, was helping his team. But as he contemplated his situation after the injury, things changed.
“I just sat back and kind of reflected on everything, and thought about things,” Lee explained. He said he reached the decision to transfer a little more than a week ago, and then gave himself a week to soak it in and make sure he was making the right decision.
“I wanted to be sure I would go the whole week and not have any regrets, thinking, ‘Wow, maybe I shouldn’t leave Drexel,’” Lee said. When he felt he was ready, on Saturday, he told head coach James “Bruiser” Flint and the coaching staff that he wouldn’t be returning to the program for one more year.
Flint, who was seen in the athletic center as well, was smiling and jovial in his fleeting moments outside of his office but was mute on the topic of Lee. The athletic department said he would be unavailable for comment.
Lee said his now-former coach took it a little hard when he informed him of the tough news.
“He was upset,” Lee admitted and his slight smile disappeared. “Definitely upset. He talked about how I could be one of the best players he’s ever coached here, all that. But the one thing I tried to make clear and harp on with the coaches is that this is my life and my decision. I’ve got to do this for myself.”
Despite the potential blowback from Drexel fans who feel Lee has abandoned ship, Lee said he’s confident in his decision.
“When it comes down to it, I’m my own man,” Lee said, “and sometimes, you have to make tough decisions. I think this is the right decision, and I’ll stand by it. If you understand me and you know me, really know me, I believe you’ll understand, too.”
Lee said when he was being recruited as a high schooler, college coaches often repeated the same refrain.
“‘When an opportunity arises, you have to be willing to jump and take that opportunity,’” he explained.
Lee said he believes this is his opportunity to make his own choice, and that when he looks back on it in 10 or 15 years, he’ll be able to say “I made that decision, and it led to this life I have now.”
When he stood up from his seat next to the windows facing Market Street, Lee shook my hand. He shook with his left hand instead of his right because, although he removed his hand cast today, the right hand is still ginger.
“Good timing,” he said, pointing to his hand as he explained its newfound freedom. Then his phone buzzed again.