Every day, Wilbert Lee received stacks of mail from Division I schools such as Georgia, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Wisconsin and Ohio State. Connecticut didn’t send quite as much mail; the Huskies showed they were interested in a different way — by coming to the Bedford Stuyvesant school and speaking to Lee in person.
“He was sold on them from the beginning,” Boys & Girls coach Barry O’Connor said. “You gotta fall in love with who falls in love with you.”
Lee, an honor roll student who will graduate from The High in January, consummated the relationship last Friday morning, verbally committing to coach Randy Edsall’s burgeoning program. He is the second New York City player to join the Huskies, following St. Joseph by the Sea star tailback Lyle McCombs, an incoming freshman. Lee was sold on UConn after taking a visit to Storrs, Conn., last Monday with his father, Jimmy Solomon.
“UConn is the place for me,” said Lee, the first Division I player in O’Connor’s eight seasons at Boys & Girls. “I really like the coaches, I liked their personalities, and the way they talked to me; they were real professional.”
He later added: “I thought about waiting to see how much offers I would get, but I thought, ‘UConn is a great school, a school I could go to and play.’ I’m ready to wear a Huskies jersey.”
Solomon and O’Connor were pleased, but not surprised, by Lee’s development. Since he started playing the sport at the age of 12 with the Canarsie Renegades, fellow parents and coaches raved about Lee’s ability. O’Connor started Lee as a freshman and watched him develop into an all-city talent. He knows his star, who O’Connor said “validates our program somewhat,” will be able to play in the Big East.
“You’re talking about a kid that bench presses over 300 [pounds], has a vertical leap over 40 inches, he’s got a 40 speed of 4.5 [seconds] — those are numbers that say Division I player,” O’Connor said. “There’s no reason he can’t compete at that level. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have an opportunity to play as a freshman.”
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound rising senior played running back, wide receiver, and returned kicks for the Kangaroos last fall, but was recruited by Connecticut as a strong safety. Lee said he was told he would be given an opportunity as a return specialist.
“Whatever I can do to contribute to the team,” said the 18-year-old from Crown Heights.
One year after reaching the PSAL Championship Division semifinals, Boys & Girls suffered through a 2-7 season, but Lee still enjoyed a solid, although injury-shortened, season, scoring five touchdowns — three through the air, one on the ground, and another via a kick return. Defensively, he had 40 tackles, three interceptions, a sack and a fumble recovery. He would like to repeat the success he – and his team — enjoyed as a sophomore.
“I really hope we get far in the playoffs at least,” he said, “if not win a championship this year.”