Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Magruder’s Lee boys to part ways

Birds of a feather flocking ... apart, for college soccer

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Laurie DeWitt⁄The Gazette
Magruder forward Alex Lee committed to play soccer at the University of Maryland next year.
They’ve been together for their entire lives, and technically, even before then. But next fall, for the first time, they will be separated.

And they couldn’t be happier. No offense to each other, of course.

Magruder’s identical-twin pairing of soccer stars, Alex and Justin Lee, are set to take their considerable athletic skills to the next level. Alex, an All-Gazette first-team forward a year ago, verbally committed to play at Maryland next fall. And Justin, who has played as a striker, midfielder and back in his career with the Colonels, gave a verbal commitment of his own, to Penn State.

The fact that the brothers have been offered scholarships to two NCAA Division I soccer schools before their senior years even began isn’t a huge surprise. They are terrific athletes — both are four-year starters on the Colonels’ boys soccer team, and both also started for the school’s Class 4A state runner-up varsity basketball team last winter, with Alex running the point and Justin playing an off-guard.

But with their symbiotic relationship on the field, it is a little surprising that they didn’t decide to continue their playing careers together, especially taking into consideration that they received interest from some of the same schools.

But they had their reasons.

‘‘I mean, it’s Maryland soccer,” said Alex. ‘‘It’s just that high level.”

‘‘For me, it’s like, I’ve been around Maryland my whole life,” said Justin. ‘‘So I decided that I should probably get away and experience something new. I’ve known a couple friends up at Penn State and when I went up visit, I just really liked it.”

Though they look exactly alike, the Lee brothers will bring slightly differing skill sets to their respective colleges. Alex took over at forward early in his Magruder playing days, and evolved into the team’s chief finisher by his sophomore year. Of the two, he probably has a small speed advantage, and his creativity in space and around the goal is perhaps unmatched in the county.

However, Justin is the more versatile of the two. He has excellent offensive skills, as shown by the six goals he scored as a freshman, when he was asked to score. But he can do it all on the field — last year he showed his defensive skills for much of the season playing in the midfield, while also scoring one of the most impressive goals of the year — a 35-yard blast in a win over Whitman early in the season.

‘‘I think that they can play anywhere though — this year, we’re going to try and use Justin maybe a little more in an attacking midfield position, while I’m toying with the idea of maybe even putting Alex in the center midfield as a playmaker for a little while,” said first-year Magruder head coach Stephen Pfeil. ‘‘I think Alex doesn’t get to maybe show his all-around skills like Justin does, but he’s actually shown them in practice, and Justin might not get [as many offensive chances]. They’re just terrific players.”

Neither brother can officially sign letters of intent to their prospective colleges until Feb. 1. But both made their decisions well before Magruder’s 2007 season kicks off: Alex made his nearly a month ago, while Justin made his mind up about a week earlier.

Because of their decisive commitments, they’ve allowed themselves full concentration on their last hurrah in Magruder soccer uniforms. The duo helped lead the Colonels to a perfect, 14-0 regular season a year ago, but they couldn’t prevent Whitman exacting revenge for the September loss in the 4A West Region semifinals.

So now that their futures are mapped out, only one thing is on their minds.

‘‘Winning states,” said Alex. ‘‘We definitely have the experience to do it. A lot of the seniors have been playing varsity for awhile, so there’s no reason we shouldn’t get it.”