Lucas to transfer from UF

Florida sophomore guard Jai Lucas will not play for the Gators before he transfers.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, November 5, 2008 at 2:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 5, 2008 at 2:26 p.m.

Jai Lucas has decided to transfer from Florida, leaving before his sophomore season for a chance to play point guard full-time somewhere else for the remainder of his college career.


Florida vs. Rollins

When: 7 p.m.
Where: O’Connell Center
Radio: AM-850

“I just think we were going in different directions.” Lucas said. “I have no regrets about it. The coaching staff, the players, the school, were great. I had a great time while I was here. I just wanted something else.”

Asked if not having the opportunity to play point guard full-time was a factor, Lucas replied, “That was a little bit of it because that’s where I’m most comfortable.”

Lucas plans to leave Florida at the end of the semester and said he hasn’t decided on where he wants to resume his college career. He will not be in uniform tonight when Florida plays its second exhibition game against Rollins College and will not play for the Gators this season.

There is much speculation that Lucas will end up with a Big 12 Conference team to be closer to his native Bellaire, Texas, a suburb of Houston. Oklahoma State, Kentucky and Maryland were among his list of finalists during the recruiting process before he signed a letter of intent with Florida.

“I haven’t really thought about anything other than finishing the semester and getting my credits,” Lucas said.

Lucas started all 36 games for Florida last season, averaging 8.5 points and 2.3 assists. But playing in a three-guard lineup alongside Southeastern co-freshman of the year Nick Calathes wasn’t always the best fit for Lucas. Calathes and Lucas shared time at point guard, forcing the 5-foot-11 Lucas to play off the ball through some stretches.

Lucas, the son of former NBA point guard and coach John Lucas, still made the All-SEC freshman team and shot a team best 43.5 percent from 3-point range. He started in Florida’s exhibition opener Monday night against Warner University, but struggled, going 1-of-9 from the floor and scoring just three points.

Lucas and his mother met with Florida coach Billy Donovan on Wednesday afternoon to let him know his decision.

“Any time a player leaves your program you’re always disappointed,” Donovan said. “But at the same time, I think there was a point where Jai wasn’t totally happy.”

Lucas is the eighth Florida player to transfer since the 2003-04 season, a list that includes Mario Boggan, Ryan Appleby, Rashid Al-Kaleem, Mohamed Abukar, Jimmie Sutton, David Huertas and Jonathan Mitchell. Most of the transfers have centered around playing time.

Donovan acknowledged that Lucas wasn’t completely happy with his role.

“He didn’t feel like it was the best fit at that point for him,” Donovan said. “We were using him a little bit off the ball with Nick back there and I don’t think he was mad about that, but I don’t know if (he wanted) to play over there that much. I think on any team there’s a little bit of give and take by everybody. I don’t blame Jai. He’s got to be happy. There’s no reason to go through your career and say, ‘Hey I’m unhappy every day coming to practice.’”

Donovan said that Walter Hodge will return to his starting spot at guard tonight when Florida plays Rollins. Freshman Erving Walker, who was impressive in his exhibition debut against Warner, also should see significant time at both point and off guard. Freshman guard Ray Shipman also showed signs of promise in his exhibition debut.

Sophomore guard Adam Allen has been behind schedule in recovering from a knee injury and will miss his second straight exhibition game Thursday night.

Florida opens the season Nov. 14 at the O’Connell Center against Toledo

“We need to get Adam Allen healthy,” Donovan said. “I think Erving has proved at least he can be a formidable backup backcourt player for us, someone we can hopefully rely on.”

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