HOOPS: Lucas Says He’s Still Wide Open

Jai Lucas knows all the stories about his dad, John, the Maryland All-American and former NBA star that couldn’t jump over a thick telephone book without a trampoline. John was 6-3 and he had maybe one good jump in him a month. Jai’s not even 6-feet but compared to dad, he’s been soaring with the eagles lately.

“I’m dunking the ball now,” said Lucas Tuesday afternoon. “I’ve been in the weight room a lot, really working on my legs and it’s showing. I can dunk now.”

That’s something his dad never could do. John Lucas averaged 20.1 points per game in his college career at the University of Maryland and he scored more than 2,000 points (more than 30 per game) in his high school career at Durham (NC) Hillside and at Maryland. He had a 15-year playing career in the NBA and has been an NBA coach and general manager. Scoring is something he could always do, but he never breathed the rarified air near the rim.

“I hear all the stories about how he couldn’t dunk,” said Jai, “so it’s kind of fun that I can do it and he couldn’t. I know he could shoot. He still can and I hear all about that all the time from him.”

Father and son do share one thing in common which is the point guard position. John made All-America twice at Maryland as the point guard for some of Coach Lefty Driesell’s best teams. Jai’s older brother, John III was an All-Big 12 Conference point guard selection at Oklahoma State.

Jai is a still growing point guard from Houston Bellaire where he averaged 24 points and six assists per game last year. He’s rated the seventh best point guard in the recruiting class of 2007 and the number 46 player overall. He spent his summer playing AAU ball for Houston Hoops along with Texas commit Gary Johnson. He’s grown and put on some weight since then.

“I measured yesterday and I’m 5-10-¾,” he said. “Everybody keeps telling me I’m getting taller so I guess I’m still growing. I weigh 153 or 155, all depends on what day you get me. I’ve added some weight since the summer. It’s probably because of the work in the weight room.”

The recruiting process is heating up quite a bit for Jai. Everybody knows that Oklahoma State, Kentucky, Maryland and Oklahoma are after him but he says there is a window of opportunity out there for such schools as Florida and LSU that have been in contact recently.

“I’m still pretty open about all this,” he said. “It’s not like I’ve made a decision or anything and I’m going to keep that window open for a couple more weeks before I decide. I’ve heard people say I’m close to a decision but really, I’m not. I’m still trying to find the place that I fit best and where everything just seems right to me. I’m still looking right now so there’s a chance for another school to make a real impression.”

He’s taken an official visit Kentucky and he has three more planned to Oklahoma State (this weekend), Maryland and Oklahoma. He added that there is a possibility he could squeeze one more visit in if he found a school that he really likes.

The Kentucky visit went very well. He was at Rupp Arena for Midnight Madness and he came away amazed that 23,000 would come to the first basketball practice of the season for the Wildcats.

“Midnight Madness there was pretty amazing,” he said. “They were loud and very enthusiastic. It was a great visit. Kentucky’s a school that has great basketball tradition. They’re in one of the top conferences in the country in the SEC and it seems they’re on TV just about every other night.”

He has family ties to the programs at Maryland and Oklahoma State.

“My brother played at Oklahoma State so I’ve got a built-in relationship there,” he said. “They’re high on my list because of the relationships I’ve got. I know I have friends there.

“My dad played at Maryland and they’re in the ACC so you know the competition is tough every single night. I’ve followed them since I was a little kid because my dad played there. They’ve won a national championship (2002).”

He followed Oklahoma back when Kelvin Sampson was the coach there and the new coach, Jeff Capel, interests him.

“I first started following Oklahoma when Kelvin Sampson coached there, but Coach Capel is young and he brings a lot to the program,” Lucas said. “They have a good basketball tradition and great fans.”

There has been some talk that he might be a package deal along with his good friend Patrick Patterson, the number 11 rated player in the nation from Huntington, West Virginia. Lucas says that he and Patterson have talked about playing together in college but that’s not a necessity.

“Sure it would be good to play with a good friend,” he said, “but Patrick’s going to look out for what’s best for him and I’m going to look out for what’s best for me. We really don’t have many schools in common. I’m going to make a decision based on what’s best for me and that may not be playing at the same place Patrick’s playing.”

Lucas is a fine student who wants to major in sociology, communications or political science.

“I want to get into something that prepares me for something in government,” he said. “I’m thinking about law school someday. I’d like to be a leader.”

He knows all about leading. As a point guard, he sets the tone for his team. As he goes, his team goes. In the next few weeks, he’ll be deciding which team he will be setting the tone for the next four years.

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.