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Thursday, December 8, 2016

KU senior Landen Lucas believes progress is a big picture thing

Kansas forward Landen Lucas

Kansas forward Landen Lucas

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Scrutinized and studied for the better part of the 2016-17 season, Kansas senior Landen Lucas on Thursday admitted that he was a little tired of all the negativity, but did so in a manner that put the blame on his shoulders.

“It got old a long time ago,” Lucas joked. “But I can understand such big expectations for this team and me being a part of that. The way it started wasn’t exactly how I envisioned, but I understand, and people are gonna try to figure out what’s wrong or what can be done better. But at the end of the day, I know that’s just on me to focus in and make it happen.”

Lucas recorded four points and five rebounds in 14 minutes during Tuesday’s win over UMKC, marking the second consecutive game in which he showed signs of life since returning from an oblique injury that forced him to miss the Long Beach State victory on Nov. 29.

For the season, Lucas now is averaging 4.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in 17.4 minutes per game.

“Uhhh, yeah, small steps,” said Lucas of his last outing. “But I really feel like every day needs to be a small step, and not just in games, but in practices, too. Just focus on each drill, each practice, each day and, overall, I’ll slowly see progress being made.”

That is exactly the hope of Kansas coach Bill Self, who, throughout Lucas’ early-season struggles, has remained calm and also optimistic that the issues plaguing his veteran big man were temporary.

“I think Landen's fine,” Self said. “....Things have to take place over time where we actually get a true evaluation of improvements being made, but certainly he's going to improve at an accelerated rate because we know he can do it.”

While Lucas has admitted that some of his on-court issues have been mental, nagging injuries to his right foot and oblique muscle also have created a less than ideal situation for him to perform at his peak.

Neither Lucas nor Self have used the injuries as an excuse through the first nine games of the season, and Lucas on Thursday reiterated that he was in good enough shape to deliver more than he had thus far.

“It’s nothing serious,” he said of the oblique injury. “Just trying to work through it. Every season you go through little nicks and stuff, so it’s just another one of those. I’m getting better and definitely feeling more comfortable on the court.”

Added Self: “He's close enough that he doesn't want to take himself out of anything. We feel like if he can get through Saturday, (vs. Nebraska) and then rest until maybe Wednesday or something like that because we have a week off with finals, we feel like he could be close to 100 percent in the next week or so.”

Improved health should go a long way toward elevating Lucas’ confidence. In the meantime, freshman 7-footer Udoka Azubuike will continue to start and play a big role. But Self said getting production from his two biggest players was not an either-or proposition.

“It's vital for our team to be good,” Self said of Lucas returning to full strength. “I love Udoka, but Udoka isn't going to be able to do potentially what Landen can potentially do this year. We need the combination of both.”

Lucas, who takes great pride in his role as a mentor to KU’s younger players, agreed with Self’s assessment and said reaching the desired outcome only would take place with patience and hard work.

“There’s always differences, as far as the situations you go through,” Lucas said of the flow of the season. “But there’s always the same overall feeling to it. There’s always gonna be something that’s wrong, there’s always gonna be things you’ve gotta figure out, and it kind of feels the same as far as we’re not there yet. A positive thing about that for myself is there’s more control in my hands. If it was something else, I wouldn’t have as much control. But because I’m a big part of that, I can play a big role in changing that for the positive.

“We take a lot of pride in the bigs as a whole. We don’t want to be looked at the way we have so far this season. That’s not the expectations we have for ourselves. We’re really serious about it every day and making sure we turn it around.”

Comments

Henry Joseph Hofmeister 2 years, 10 months ago

I see a lot of articles about former guards coming back for camps and such. Do we have any bigs that have school spirit and come back? Our guards that talk are still competitive, not out of the game. I think if we still had manning we'd be in a better position.

Eliott Reeder 2 years, 10 months ago

Wayne Simien is at every game. Pollard lives in Lawrence and is around the program a lot, I believe. And I think I saw Kevin Young sitting behind the bench at the last one. Several of our more recent bigs have been playing in Europe lately. I agree that more frequent appearances from Cole, Darrell, Withey etc would be nice though...

Henry Joseph Hofmeister 2 years, 10 months ago

I haven't been to a game since school but awesome that Wayne is there. I do see Kevin once in awhile watching the games. What I was thinking is that it would be nice if the ljworld reporters could focus more on interviewing our past big men like they do our "mario". We develop big post guys just as well as guards. Having an unbalanced team seems strange this year.

Hal Urbanek 2 years, 10 months ago

Landen, fans can be so harsh. You were playing at such a high level toward the end of last year and no one doubts that you can go back there! Take yor time and enjoy the ride!

RJ King 2 years, 10 months ago

If we could combine Udoka's hands with Lucas' feet . . .

Kansas fans would love Scott Pollard, Nick Collison, Raef LaFrentz, Paul Pierce, Danny Manning, and Wilt Chamberlain all rolled into one. But I look at Lucas within the context of his class of 2012 - how they developed, and where they are now – and I’m not disappointed at all. I think it included Ellis, Traylor, and Zack Peters. Tarczewski was supposed to be our answer to Anthony Davis. Or maybe Tony Parker as a mini-Shaq? We were shunned by Daniel House, Wille Cauley Stein, DaJuan Coleman, and a few others.

Lucas has seen coaches depart (Manning, Dooley, Sadler), freshmen explode on the scene (Embiid), unexpected arrivals (Black), immovable objects (Ellis), and log-jams (Traylor & Mickelson).

It would be a fairy tale if we were following Lucas in the NBA this year. Instead, his bright mind, effort, good character, and development so far is pretty much everything I hoped for.

Chris Shaw 2 years, 10 months ago

I think Lucas will be fine. I think he will return in some fashion to his phenomenal 15 game "Stretch" of last year. I still think knows he's the 5th scoring option when he's on the court. He just needs to catch a break (health wise and ref wise) and find that groove. I think he will. I've said this a lot...I'm not worried about Lucas.

I honestly don't think he's far from getting back to the point of finding a groove. Im not sure he will get back to last year but I think he can find a nice rhythm with this roster. I also think it's unrealistic for Lucas to get back to last year because he's gonna have a different "role". At least in terms of his outlook of the front court because there is no Perry Ellis alongside him.

Sure, his confidence is a little shaken but he's smart, experienced, and he's been in Self'a system for 5 years now. He knows what is expected of him and he knows exactly where he stands with Coach Self. I think that right there is why Lucas is an asset regardless whwether he is getting 29 mins, 15 mins, starting or not starting.

Now, this is just my opinion...what's hurting Lucas ultimately is the "Perrry Ellis Effect". Perry was so good and garnered so much attention...it made Lucas' job so much easier and it took pressure off him to perform.

Kansas doesn't have a Marcus Morris, T-Rob, Darrell Arthur, or Perry Ellis to help compliment their other big men. Let's face it...Bragg is struggling and Doke is young. Lucas is suppose to shoulder that scoring load? Not a chance. Be nice if Bragg could have stepped up just a little to be a D.Arthur, Marcus, T-Rob, or Perry.

I'm more disappointed in Bragg than I am Lucas because I know what Lucas is. D-Jackson had Arthur. Morris twins had Aldrich. Kieff and T-Rob had Marcus. Withey had T-Rob. Lucas had Perry Ellis last year. Who does Lucas have this year? Doke? Bragg?

I just don't think it's Lucas as much as it's not having the "traditional" 4 that Self has always had in his tenure at Kansas. Lucas is adjusting to the 4 guard lineup and it impacts him more than anyone else on the team so I'm cutting the 5th year senior some slack at the moment.

Let's revisit this mid January and see if Lucas adjusted or if his game improved. That's where I am on the Lucas issue.

Eliott Reeder 2 years, 10 months ago

The rule-change/ emphasis in the post where they are calling every bit of incidental contact on him are having a serious effect as well.

Chris Shaw 2 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, I'm not buying that as the main issue, but Lucas needs to adjust.

Henry Joseph Hofmeister 2 years, 10 months ago

I like your thoughts on this, there are things I didn't think about before. I wonder how losing Bragg today will sit on his shoulders. Landen seems like he can step up to any challenge. He may not have been a superstar before but he is definitely capable.

Jay Scott 2 years, 10 months ago

The non conference has been frustrating for Lucas and Bragg. With teams playing smaller and zebras in some twilight zone it's been difficult to play the game as it's been taught to them. Things will normalize in a few more games and Lucas, Bragg and the rest of the frontcourt will assert themselves.

Bryce Landon 2 years, 10 months ago

If Bragg isn't dismissed from the team for the domestic assault charges the KC Star is reporting, that is...

Humpy Helsel 2 years, 10 months ago

Landen needs to get healthy and just play. He'll be fine. Stay in your lane, Landen. Rebound and defense. I am convinced Carlton is never going to like contact around his shot. He likes to step out a bit and can be deadly from mid range. I think he should be encouraged to step on out to the 3 range to draw one of the opponent's bigs away from the basket in respect to his ability to shoot from outside. He will take contact in rebounding but doesn't deal well with contact with shot. Some players just don't.

Regardless of the talk in the other article about Josh Jackson, I would sag on him and clog the lane and dare the dude to shoot from outside whenever possible. I'd make him beat me from there and keep the guy out of the lane whenever possible. He is an assassin in the lane.

Bryce Landon 2 years, 10 months ago

You can criticize Lucas for his play, but at least he hasn't been arrested for anything like Carlton Bragg was. Interesting that the KC Star is reporting it but not the LJW...

http://www.kansascity.com/sports/college/big-12/university-of-kansas/article119896743.html

Matt Tait 2 years, 10 months ago

Just a matter of timing... Working on it at the same time. Bad deal for Bragg and the program all the way around.

Harlan Hobbs 2 years, 10 months ago

Landen is the least of my concerns. I know that he will give his best as much as possible. He is extremely smart, very well spoken, and loaded with character.

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