Basketball helped Lee hone leaping skills

Marqise Lee, USC's freshman receiver sensation, is just a tad taller than 5-11, yet he and his teammates say he can dunk on an 11-foot rim.

You tend to believe their claims when you see Lee make leaping grabs over and over in practices and games. But how he can jump so high?

"Basketball," USC head coach Lane Kiffin said Tuesday. "If you look at guys over the years, the receivers, I think usually the really good receivers are really good basketball players. Especially guys that play the ball in the air, just like Mike [Williams] was and Dwayne [Jarrett] in high school, they were great basketball players like him and so I think it just comes natural from ball skills and rebounding.

"The only thing he's different than those two is he's shorter. Other than that, he goes and gets it and takes it away."

Lee said there's a real correlation between basketball and football, especially when dealing with jumping.

"In basketball, if somebody tries to dunk on you, you actually have to time your jump and try to block them," he said Monday. "And that helps me in football to go up and get it."

Lee, 19, was a good basketball player at Gardena Serra and a superb long jumper. At one point in May, he had the best registered long jump in the country for the 2011 track season. He could have participated in track or basketball on scholarship in college, and was recruited by some schools specifically to play basketball.

And he might still do it. Basketball coach Kevin O'Neill said earlier this year he'd welcome having Lee walk on, and that was before the Trojans lost starting guard Jio Fontan for the season with a torn ACL.

Lee said this week he is considering playing for the Trojans after the football season ends Nov. 26, which would only force him to miss six or seven games, and Kiffin gave his stamp approval after Tuesday's practice as well.

"We're all about that," Kiffin said. "We love our guys playing multiple sports. ... We've pushed our guys to do that. I think it keeps them competitive year-round, and I think it's great for the university."

A note on Lee's jumping ability: With his 5-foot-11 frame and generously assuming his standing reach is about 8 feet, 4 inches, he'd have to have at least a 38-inch vertical to be able to dunk on an 11-foot rim. The rule of thumb with dunking is that you have to be able to jump about eight inches higher than the rim to dunk.