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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

On the job training: Landen Lucas battling for minutes

Sophomore forward Landen Lucas photographed during Media Day on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013.

Sophomore forward Landen Lucas photographed during Media Day on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013.

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Sophomore forward Landen Lucas photographed during Media Day on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013.

Kansas University’s basketball big men — Tarik Black, Perry Ellis, Joel Embiid, Landen Lucas, Hunter Mickelson, Jamari Traylor and Justin Wesley — engage in some spirited battles at practice.

“It’s pretty crazy,” said Lucas, KU’s 6-foot-10, 240-pound red-shirt freshman power forward from Portland, Ore. “Last year it was pretty much Jeff (Withey) and I guarding each other, and that’s about it. This year you’ll get matched up on so many different bigs. Everybody has their own skill set. I think it’s good for all of us. We all get better.”

Through four games, Lucas ranks as KU’s fifth big in terms of playing time, ahead of Wesley. Mickelson can practice but not play in games this season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules.

“I’ve talked to coach a lot about it. We stay in constant communication about it,” Lucas said of discussion about his role. “If there’s one program where you are going to be patient, it’s a program like this. I’m enjoying the ride and trying to get better. Once it is my turn, I think I’ll be ready to go.”

Lucas — he has played 11 minutes total in KU’s four victories, scoring eight points and grabbing three rebounds — said his prime responsibility now, “is to play hard. I like to rebound. I’m really good at rebounding. That’s something I can bring to the team. The minutes I’m getting ... it’s really important to play hard, especially if you’ve been sitting awhile, just go out there and hustle because he (coach Bill Self) wants to see what you can do in those small amount of minutes before he gives you any more.”

Lucas’ main weakness right now is: “Finishing against length, which is perfect because we’ve got guys like Joel,” Lucas said of going against 7-footer Embiid. “I got to work on it last year against Jeff (7-footer Withey). Also guarding. I’m able to play both the 4 and 5 because a lot of times these teams have a mobile 4. Sometimes I’ll get matched up against a guy like Perry (Ellis, 6-8). His offensive skill set could be like a 3.”

Self, whose team is loaded with depth in the frontcourt as well as the backcourt, said Lucas is definitely ready to contribute at this level.

“He’s good. He’s just a freshman. He has a bright future. I’m excited about his future,” Self said. “It doesn’t mean he can’t play this year. He has to play better than some of the other guys in front of him. He doesn’t need to get discouraged at all. There’s a lot of guys who would love to be able to start a couple years at Kansas. He’s one of those guys, no question.”

For now, Lucas is trying to earn his own minutes and help players such as freshman Embiid progress at a rapid rate.

“It’s unbelievable how quick he’s developed. His potential is through the roof,” Lucas said. “If he could get Jeff’s timing, it’d be unbelievable (in terms of shot blocking). He (Embiid) is more athletic and quicker off the floor. Jeff was so patient, he wouldn’t go for ball fakes. That’s hard to find in somebody who likes to block shots.”

Tough classes: Lucas, who was born in Tokyo and learned the Japanese language during his sixth- and seventh-grade years while living with his mom in the city of Fukui, is studying Japanese at KU.

“I’ll probably do some kind of double-major in Japanese. I want to do something in business or communications, which is my focus,” Lucas said. “I took two (classes) last year. I’ll probably try to finish it up the next couple years. I learned it straight from (being in) Japan. Learning it here is a little bit different.”

Matt Tait’s December 2012 story on Lucas living in Japan is available at http://bit.ly/U7sfrf

The trip begins: KU’s players and three charters full of fans who are Williams Fund members will depart for the Bahamas this afternoon. KU will meet Wake Forest in a first-round Battle 4 Atlantis game at 2:30 p.m., Central time, Thursday in Paradise Island, Bahamas. About 1,500 KU fans are expected to be in the stands for the opener in the 3,900-seat Imperial Arena, which is actually a ballroom/convention center.

This classifies as a business trip with a bit of time for fun.

“We had a parent email us and ask, hey, let us know when the kids’ free time is so we can get with our kids, and I emailed them back, and I said, ‘This is a business trip, there’s no free time,’” Self said. ‘“You have the free time, not us.’ We’ll give them some time on Wednesday, and we’ll give them some time on Sunday, but other than that and Tuesday night when we get there they can hang out and stuff, but we’re not concerned about anything other than trying to win games on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and eat good Thursday night.”

Maui: The field for the 2015 Maui Invitational was announced on Monday: KU, Indiana, St. John’s, UCLA, UNLV, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Chaminade. Next year, KU will play in the Old Spice Tournament on Thanksgiving week in Orlando, Fla. The field will be announced sometime this week. KU has yet to choose a tourney for 2016. In 2017, KU returns to the Battle 4 Atlantis.

Recruiting: JaQuan Lyle, a 6-5 senior shooting guard from Huntington (W.Va.) Prep, plans to visit KU for the Kansas State game on Jan. 11, he told Rivals.com. Lyle is ranked No. 22 in the recruiting Class of 2014 by Rivals.com and is a good friend of KU signee Cliff Alexander.

Comments

Asad Zoberi 9 months, 1 week ago

Mr. Lucas seems to be a very intelligent young man. He is being patient and waiting for his time while learning from the best of the best. I have no doubt that he will have a great career at KU and beyond. Rock Chalk Mr. Lucas.

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Brandon Deines 9 months, 1 week ago

I think you mean "University of Kansas."

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John Randall 9 months, 1 week ago

Nice of you to take responsibility for your own thoughts – would have been irresponsible to posture as a pedant.

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Jack Wilson 9 months, 1 week ago

If Ellis and Embiid both turn pro, and we don't get Myles, Lucas' turn could come as early as next season.

But on the OAD merry go round, it might never be Lucas' turn.

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Kye Clark 9 months, 1 week ago

Agreed. As long as Self keeps getting the Embiids & Cliff Alexanders of the prep world, he might never start.

To me though his biggest road block is Jamari Traylor. Obviously he's not better than Traylor now, or he would be seeing minutes ahead of him. And Traylor will continue to block him until Lucas is a senior, barring any developments that would leap frog Lucas in front. We also don't know if Lucas is ahead of Hunter Mickleson.

I'm a fan of this guy and hope he gets a shot at some meaningful minutes before it's all said and done. I guess in a worst case scenario, he could always go the Tarik Black route and transfer out as a senior and step in somewhere for immediate playing time (assuming the NCAA doesn't close that rule/loophole before Lucas gets there).

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Benz Junque 9 months, 1 week ago

My god, this place is so full of gloom and doom "Everyone is going to transfer" people. Good grief. It must suck to be so pessimistic.

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Kye Clark 9 months, 1 week ago

Maybe you missed this - "I'm a fan of this guy".

Also - "Worst case scenario..."

Get a grip before generalizing my post as "everyone is going to transfer".

One guy (not "everyone"), who I'm saying worst case scenario in regards to him seeing playing time is he stays here until he graduates (like Black did at Memphis) and because he red-shirted and because he seems really bright will certainly have his degree in hand before his eligibility runs out, could in the best interest of him and wanting to see the court, transfer to another school where he could immediately step in without having to sit out a year. Again, this is worst case, operating under the condition that Self always has two post players better than him that would prevent him from ever starting. In that scenario, if he's given his all to the university for 4 years, I would be in favor of him looking elsewhere to make a greater on-court contribution.

Really maybe the slightest pinch of pessimism in there, but it must suck to mistakenly think everyone else is so doom & gloom.

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Eliott Reeder 9 months, 1 week ago

Possibly, but I have to believe that Lucas three years in will be better than most 1-and-done freshman starting right out of the gate. Or at the very least he will get minutes in the way that Tarik is trading with Embiid, starting for the first half of a season while the newcomer gets his feet wet. Either way, he will certainly get plenty of chances to prove himself before his eligibility is up.

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Benz Junque 9 months, 1 week ago

"I’m enjoying the ride and trying to get better. Once it is my turn, I think I’ll be ready to go.”

My guess is that by the end of next year, he will be as good as any OAD type player we could bring in here thanks to his experience in the system, his size and his ability. Self won't need to bring in an uber elite prospect to displace his. He'll be ready. Lucas has the right attitude and is very intelligent. Self is obviously pleased with his progression. He'll be in a position to be a major contributor after next season.

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Jack Wilson 9 months, 1 week ago

ict - Right, I mean Traylor is clearly ahead of Lucas in the post right now, and Mickelson might be. We don't know on Mickelson.

Elliott - I wouldn't assume that Lucas would be better than an OAD freshman post player. The difference is talent. Justin Wesley is a senior right now. "Senior" isn't a big deal. It's part of the picture. Perry Ellis is sophomore. Lucas will never be that good. Embiid has been playing for a few years. Lucas will never be that good.

Benz - ict isn't being pessimistic. He's being realistic. Last season, I was scolded for suggesting that the loser of the Adams/Tharpe battle would transfer. Same for Lindsay. Same for Doyle. Same for saying that only one of Peters, Traylor, Lucas would survive here without transferring (I'm thus far incorrect on that by one). Transfers are the sad reality that we deal with. But simply noting the possibilities, and even the likelihood, isn't the act of a pessimist. In ict's case, it's the act of a realist.

That all being said, ict just noted that the Tarik Black route .. transferring his senior season without penalty after graduation .. would be available to Lucas in "worst case scenario."

Seem like you might be looking for a pessimist when there is none. And it makes for good discussion.

But, Benz, your suggestion that by the end of next season Lucas will be as good an any OAD freshman just simply ignores reality. First, there are scant few unranked guys that even get to the level of a high talent OAD. Very few. Derrick Williams is one. That's what you are talking about. Lucas getting to a top 10 talent range. If he was on that trajectory, he'd be playing now. How do explain that Lucas can't even beat out Traylor? Withey was a top 50 guy and made nice developmental progress. Lucas was unranked .. you can't ignore that. I would be interested if you could name any unranked post player that has ever progressed to the point that, after his third year, is better than the general top 10, OAD player. Derrick Willams' trajectory, for example, took him to the NBA after his sophomore (2nd season).

Heck, Self, this season, when asked about redshirts, brought up Lucas as saying that we couldn't redshirt him this season because he already had. That's where Lucas is in the pecking order.

My comments here are not meant to imply that Lucas can't develop into a serviceable, or even good, post player. I think he can. But comparable to your normal OAD post player, no way.

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Benz Junque 9 months, 1 week ago

Are we worse off for having Adams, Peters, Doyle etc... transfer? NO. They are replaceable parts, just like Lucas who, while a nice developmental part, is replaceable.

If it is important for him to get more minutes for some random, irrelevant team than to be in a place where he gets to be trained by the greatest coaching staff and training staff in the game and be a part of a team that contends for a national title every year then best of luck. I will help him pack his stuff and I will cheer for the guy that WANTS to be here.

Lucas is owed NOTHING. He understands that he has to earn the right to play. If he isn't good enough to do that at Kansas well tough crap. Not many are. He has a good shot. I'd hate to see the kid give up rather than try. I think he'd be better off for the effort.

I bemoan the griping about the possibility of a transfer because this is about the 10,000th post I have read doing the same thing. "Greene/White/Lucas/fill in the blank all MIGHT transfer if we keep bringing in these darn AWESOME RECRUITS". Gee, what a horrible thing. It's getting old.

If Lucas transfers because a better player than Lucas joins the team then I am thrilled. My loyalty is to Kansas basketball, not Landen Lucas. Let his momma worry about his own well-being. I want more national titles for KU.

The point about Lucas' development over a OAD prospect is that Self MIGHT not feel the need to recruit a OAD player over Lucas if he is comfortable with what he will get from Lucas. Whether the OAD might produce more is irrelevant. If Self likes what he has, he will focus his recruiting efforts on positions he sees as more of a need.

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Jack Wilson 9 months, 1 week ago

Benz: I guess we agree on that. I too am glad that certain guys transfered and I don't lose any sleep over it.

My only concerns on transfers is losing a guy that is really good. Like a Brannen Greene. Top 50 guys. And yes, I'll whine about that. I don't whine about the Doyles, Lindsays, etc. I have been firmly on record that we shouldn't bother with guys like that.

I want more titles too. That is the only priority. I want the best guys. But I do not think that a merry go round of OADs is the note way to get the best shots at titles. I think OADs, filling obvious needs is fine, but guys like Brannen Greene, Perry Ellis, etc. are better choices over the long term. I'd rather have a 2nd or 3rd year Perry Ellis as opposed to the OAD. Top 50 guys that stay, get better, and have the perfect blend of high level talent and experience. You group "Greene/White/Lucas" together. I don't. Greene and White are top 50 guys. Lucas wasn't and isn't a high level talent.

But you're point was on an unranked Lucas. You had said that your guess was that by the end next season, Self wouldn't need to bring in any "uber elite prospect" because Lucas would be "ready." Actually, you said "He will be ready." Now your response now says, essentially, he "might" be ready" That is a big difference. If you had said that initially, I wouldn't have disagreed. I think Lucas is exactly that. I nice gamble that could develop.

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Benz Junque 9 months, 1 week ago

Doug McDermott wasn't a Top 100 guy and he seems to have developed into a more than adequate player. Hell be a three time first team All American when he leaves college. Your high school class ranking does not determine your ceiling. I have seen Lucas play in limited minutes so far and he appears calm, collected and poised. He is going to be an excellent player in two years. Book it.

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Benz Junque 9 months, 1 week ago

Do not be handcuffed by the past. Did ANYONE think after Thomas Robinson's freshman year that he would be runner up for the NPOY two seasons later? NO. If you say yes then you are bending the truth monumentally. Most people looked at Withey's first year at Kansas and said that he would be lucky to be any type of contributor. He was TERRIBLE.

And yes, I can ignore a player's high school rankings. It's easy and it's wise. Do I think that Lucas will be an All American? No. But I see good things in his future. He does not look out of his element out there at all.

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Kye Clark 9 months, 1 week ago

TRob was ranked in the top 35 out of high school. Withey was a top 50 player out of high school. You might be oblivious to the rankings, but you just named two guys that prove HEM's point. Rankings matter, whether you want them to or not. They are more or less the rule. Are there exceptions to the rule? Of course (HEM named one). But the guys you listed are the rule.

Thanks for playing.

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Bryce Landon 9 months, 1 week ago

How much longer before we go back to the NIT Season Tip-Off? We haven't been there since Ol' Roy's last season.

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John Randall 9 months, 1 week ago

We've been in a better place – The Champion's Classic –and will be for at least 3 more years. That should be enough to at least even up our record there.

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Chris Shaw 9 months, 1 week ago

My favorite quote of all-time. Sorry Mr. and Mrs. parent....You Lose...No Free Time! KU has a National Championship to win! What a fantastic way to start my morning. All-time classic quote.

We had a parent email us and ask, hey, let us know when the kids’ free time is so we can get with our kids, and I emailed them back, and I said, ‘This is a business trip, there’s no free time,’” Self said. ‘“You have the free time, not us.’ We’ll give them some time on Wednesday, and we’ll give them some time on Sunday, but other than that and Tuesday night when we get there they can hang out and stuff, but we’re not concerned about anything other than trying to win games on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and eat good Thursday night.”

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Joe Joseph 9 months, 1 week ago

What are the odds the email was from Cindy Self?

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Ron Prichard 9 months, 1 week ago

In the eternal words of Jaybate, PHOF!! Love it!

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Bryce Landon 9 months, 1 week ago

Meanwhile, check this out:

http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/10040468/missouri-tigers-student-fan-group-antlers-kicked-again

We HAVE to root for West Virginia when the Mountaineers meet the team they replaced in the Big 12.

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Jack Wilson 9 months, 1 week ago

Try this photo .. Mizzou arena in the middle of Saturday's game:

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Al Martin 9 months, 1 week ago

I have pretty thoroughly expunged Missouri from my thoughts, but I have to admit, that picture warms my cold, dark heart...

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Colby Hebert 9 months, 1 week ago

Lucas by a junior and/or senior should be a contributor for us. Think about who he practices/will practice against...

I still think Bill Self has a good mix of players, people who take a few years to develop and the one and done types. Coach may have just landed more guys than he thought he would lately based on past experiences. He will adjust.

Just because a big will never be a 20 and 10 guy and be a lottery pick does not mean he is a failure. There may be a stretch we need Landen in March in the future and he will have been practicing against Embiid and Withey and Traylor and Black and Cliff Alexander and Perry Ellis and whoever else. You can be immortalized if you do things even for a short stretch that help win a title.

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Benz Junque 9 months, 1 week ago

Bill Self's system does not create guys that get 20 and 10 averages. His system creates guys that could get 20 and 10 in a lot of other systems. His system creates winning teams.

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Benz Junque 9 months ago

Agreed. Every winning team needs a Darnell Jackson. Lucas can fill that role and then some because he is is WAY ahead of where Jackson was at this point in his career.

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