Reloading! Jai Lucas will be a Gator

This isn’t a rebuilding job. It’s reloading. That’s what Billy Donovan is doing with this basketball recruiting class of 2007. What was already one of the top five recruiting classes in the country got even stronger Monday afternoon when McDonald’s All-American Jai Lucas announced that he will be a Gator in the fall.

Lucas is a 5-10 point guard from Houston Bellaire who also made the Parade and Jordan All-American teams. He led his team to the district championship three straight years, averaging 26 points and six assists per game as a senior while knocking down 51 per cent of his three-point shots.

“This is a great fit for him,” said John Lucas, Jai’s dad. John is a former Maryland All-American who played and coached in the NBA. “Jai wants to be a great college point guard and he aspires to play in the NBA someday. We think Billy Donovan is the coach that can help him reach his dreams.

“Billy played the point in college and understands the point. He gives his point guards the freedom to make good decisions and run a team. We think this is a good decision and we’re just happy the recruiting process is all over.”

Lucas chose Florida over Oklahoma State and Kentucky on Monday. Maryland and Oklahoma were in his final five. Jai’s older brother, John II, was an All-Big 12 point guard at Oklahoma State. John II also played in the NBA.

Lucas joins a Florida recruiting class that includes 6-6 Nick Calathes of Lake Howell, 6-9 Chandler Parsons of Lake Howell, 6-9 Alex Tyus of St. Louis and Cincinnati’s Harmony Prep and 6-7 Adam Allen of Milton. Calathes was a McDonald’s, Parade and Jordan All-American and Parsons made the Jordan team.

It was at the Jordan Brand All-American Game in New York that Calathes and Parsons had a lot of influence on Jai Lucas.

“Nick Calathes and Chandler Parsons did a great job of recruiting Jai at the Jordan game,” said John Lucas. “I think that had a lot of influence on Jai’s decision.”

Parsons said he’s delighted that Lucas joins the Florida recruiting class.

“I think Jai makes everyone around him better,” said Parsons, who teamed with Calathes to lead Lake Howell to the Florida 5A state championship. “He’s a great floor leader, he’s a great passer and he can shoot the three. He is really a great penetrator.

“We played his high school team this year and we had Joey [Rodriguez] who is also a great point guard and really so quick, but Jai got by him and got into the lane. If you can do that, you’re really quick. I love the way he sets up a shooter. I think he’s going to make my job a whole lot easier. With Nick, Walter Hodge, Brandon [Powell] and Jai, we’ll have the best guards in the country next year.”

With Lucas choosing the Gators that leaves Patrick Patterson as the last McDonald’s All-American standing. Patterson will announce Wednesday between Florida, Kentucky and Duke.

“Jai just told the people here [at the press conference] he’s going to be on the phone and he’ll be all over Patrick Patterson,” said John Lucas. “If Florida gets Patrick to go with Jai and the guys they’ve already got signed … and those guys like Walter Hodge and [Marreese] Speights … they’re going to be really good. They might not be great early because they’re young and they’ll have to learn to play with each other, but by February, they could be a really great team. They’re about as talented a team as you’re going to find.”

Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.