Some thoughts on Lucas
First things first. If you want to call Jai Lucas selfish for deciding to transfer from UF, than you obviously know little about him as a person, or his family. His father John, battled his own demons and has spent countless time helping other basketball players recover from addiction at his suburban Houston complex. I personally know one former prominent basketball coach who credits John Lucas for turning his life around.
Like John, Jai is a class person who as a freshman last season was willing to make sacrifices.
So was this a selfish decision? Perhaps, but keep in mind college basketball is a short window, and Lucas was playing out of position from the start. He needs to be in a situation where he’s handling the ball 80-90 percent of the time as a break-down-the-defense point guard. That wasn’t going to happen at Florida, not with dynamo sophomore Nick Calathes still around. There’s a reason why Calathes set a school record with 221 assists last season. His court vision and ability to make others around him is as good as any player in college basketball. Lucas is a fine college point guard, but Calathes is even better.
I thought that Jai might stick around one more season, because if Calathes opted to leave for the NBA Draft following his sophomore year, he could have taken over the reigns as the full-time point guard in his junior year. Yes, incoming freshman Kenny Boynton would have been a factor, but Boynton is more effective off the ball. Erving Walker may have pushed Lucas, but I think the job would have been Jai’s to lose.
Instead, Jai is moving on so he could salvage his sophomore season as a full-time point guard. If he gets his paperwork in order in December, he could be eligible to play for another Division I team by January of 2010. Where will he go? Lucas was mum on the subject Wednesday, but an SEC sports writer that I respect said that Lucas has a good relationship with former LSU assistant and interim head coach Butch Pierre, who is now at Oklahoma State. Lucas’ older brother, John, played at Oklahoma State. It also would be chance to play closer to home in the Big 12 Conference.
With due respect to Jai, I think this will help Florida in the long run because it will create better balance on the floor. Senior Walter Hodge will slide back into the No. 2 guard spot, giving the Gators needed experience and leadership from the opening tip. Walker and Ray Shipman will play more off the bench. If anything, Florida probably still has more issues up front at this point than they do in the backcourt.