By LARRY VAUGHT
They were the perfect Odd Couple for three years at Kentucky — and still are even though they are miles apart now.
Kentucky senior cheerleader Whitney Agee of Huntington, W.Va., and former UK basketball player Marcus Lee of California met their freshman year at UK and a friendship evolved that neither could have ever anticipated.
“We shared some classes together freshman year and started talking as friends,” Lee said. “We were just trying to get through the classes. That is how we first met.”
Agee, who was part of another national championship this season, says an argument actually helped the friendship start.
“We actually became best friends over an argument the end of our freshman year about whether you should say ‘Bless you’ after every time someone sneezes or not and the rest is history,” she said.
Lee transferred to California after his junior season and sat out this season. That got him back closer to his family and also gave him a year to improve his skills.
Agee didn’t want him to go, but the two still talk almost every day.
“I pretty much talk to her every day,” Lee said. “We tell each other everything that happens throughout the day. I still know everything that goes on at Kentucky.
“I think our friendship may have actually grown stronger since I left. It did suck leaving. One of the hardest things I had to do was tell her I was transferring. It was a rough last month (at UK) before I left because I was going to be separated from my best friend.”
Agee understood why Lee transferred, even if she did not like it.
“I sure was heartbroken when he left, but he was doing what’s best for him, and that’s all I could ever want for him,” she said.
When they talk on the phone, Lee said they try to avoid the subject of what it might be like if he was still at UK. If Agee would ask if he might come back, he would just tell her he wished he could but that he couldn’t.
“I am back home. I get to see my family every week and that’s been great,” he said. “I got to step back and do the student at school things and got a year to prepare for my final season of college basketball. I enjoy it here and the lifestyle it provides me. But I am still friends with my old teammates that were at Kentucky this year and the ones in the pros.”
What about when he had friends tell him how much he could have helped UK this year if he had stayed?
“I didn’t let it enter my head, but I would see and hear that,” Lee said. “Things happen for a reason. It’s working out for me. You have to go and learn and not look at the past.”
So why do they think they became such special friends?
“We always had each other’s back. We ended up talking all the time and doing everything together,” Lee said. “We would see each other almost every day and had a lot of classes together. We grew to be close.”
“I’m pretty sure I could write a book on why/how much I love him. He is by far the most morally based person I’ve ever met. He makes me want to be a better person in general every day,” Agee said.
Lee had a special dynamic with UK walk-on basketball player E.J. Floreal. But he says it was “real cool” to have that special friendship with Agee.
“We had a ritual before each game. I would run over to her during games,” Lee said. “I went to all her sendoffs for the (cheerleading) nationals and stuff like that.
“Our group of friends went bowling about every week. That was a big thing. All our friends played sports, so that was a way for us all to relax. Other times we would just go grab something to eat. At first we would argue about who would pay for it. But it didn’t really matter because we were with each other so much. It just worked out.”
Agee said they took turns paying on the “friend dates” they had.
“When he left our ‘friend dates,’ ice cream days, and bowling nights went with that, but we still talk every day and he has uplifting words for me and encourages me to be my best, do my best, and always do something good,” Agee said.
Lee said Agee was always his first call if he had something to vent about – basketball-related or anything else.
“She would help me figure things out. We didn’t always talk basketball but she understands the situation of sports and what goes on with a team. We understood each other well,” Lee said.
That includes him not underestimating Agee’s athletic ability.
“I think the cheerleaders were the most athletic people on campus,” Lee said. “They do things that I could never do, or want to do. I have attempted to do some things like they do.”
Could he do them?
“I was still in the learning stage when I left UK,” he laughed and said.
But even being in California has not put a dent in the special friendship this UK cheerleader and UK basketball player developed.
“I can always count on him, and I know I’ll always be able to,” Agee said.
“She is a very open person,” Lee said. “She is just as jolly as I am. She matches my energy level no matter what we are doing. Maybe that’s why we just always get along so well.”
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