Former KU center Landen Lucas believes in transfer path for future Jayhawks
Former Kansas basketball player Landen Lucas never actually transferred to or from KU.
But with his career broken into two different pieces — during his red-shirt year and after it — Lucas was able to experience the benefits of what a lot of transfers gain while sitting out during their first season at their new schools.
At Kansas in the coming months, three such players will be walking down that path, with former Memphis standouts Dedric and K.J. Lawson and former Cal point guard Charlie Moore all joining the Jayhawks this summer without being eligible to play in games for more than a year.
And that’s to say nothing of new acquisition Jack Whitman or 2017 transfer Sam Cunliffe, who came from Arizona State just after the new year and still has eight months to go before he’s eligible to join the Jayhawks following the first semester of the 2017-18 season.
Although Lucas, who red-shirted during his first season with the Jayhawks (2012-13), was not exactly in the position of starting his college career over, he said recently that he approached his year on the bench like many transfers should approach theirs.
“I think it’s huge,” he said during a Monday evening appearance on KLWN’s Rock Chalk Sports Talk. “Just speaking for myself, as far as my red-shirt year, you’re going against great competition and it gives you a chance, without a whole bunch of stress, to sit back and really see what coach wants, see what coach is looking for, be competitive, work on different things in practice. If guys use that year right and work on yourself that’s a big part of how you can help contribute. If you take advantage of it, it could be huge.”
“If” was the operative word in that last sentence, but Lucas said, for the most part, the players who transferred to KU during his five-year stint with the program have done exactly that.
Most notable among them, according to Lucas, was former Mississippi State standout Malik Newman, who sat out the recently completed 2016-17 season and now appears poised and ready for big things when he returns to action this fall.
“Malik, he’s really taken advantage of it,” Lucas said. “And it allows him to really step in and shine right away because he understands what coach wants (and) coach has seen him enough. Now that he’s in that new role he can really embrace it.”
During his playing days, Lucas teamed with six of the 14 players to transfer to Kansas to date during the Bill Self era. And Lucas said each one of them did his absolute best to take advantage of his transfer year.
He also competed with five players who elected to leave KU, and Lucas also said he could see the appeal of a fresh start and held nothing against any of the guys who left.
“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t (think about it early on when playing time was tough to come by),” Lucas said. “When you come out of high school and you competed at the level I did and then to come to school and have to sit out and not play very much, it was tough. Obviously (leaving) crosses your mind, but then I had to reel it back in and just remember that I came here for a reason and when it does work out, when it does happen, it might not be as quick, but it’s gonna be greater. And that’s truly how it was. I just decided to stick with it. I was at the right spot. And that’s just how I kind of approached it.”
Lucas on Graham
Also on Rock Chalk Sports Talk on Monday evening, Lucas covered a number of other topics, from his KU career to his current quest to impress NBA scouts and the creation of his Landen Lucas Foundation that will raise money to help fund athletic endeavors of young people in and around Lawrence and in his hometown of Portland.
Lucas, on Sunday, will host a couple of fund-raising events in Lawrence (at Johnny’s West, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) and in Topeka (at R&D Sports, from 6-8 p.m.). Fans will be able to meet and get autographs from Lucas and purchase some of the gear he wore during his playing days with the Jayhawks. All of the money raised will go toward the foundation.
Curious about Lucas’ take on the return of his former teammate Devonte’ Graham, who announced last month that he would stick around for his senior season, Lucas said he was thrilled with Graham’s decision.
“I think it’s huge,” Lucas said. “For him, it was a great decision. He’s such a great player and I think everybody knows that, but the level (he is) might be kind of hidden just because of how fantastic Frank (Mason III) was. Having him back, having him as a senior, hungry to take over, it’s huge. I enjoyed playing with him. He’s always the life of the team and for him to kind of go into his last go around as the man, I’m sure he’s looking forward to it and I’m looking forward to just watching him. “I don’t know if there’s a recruit you could’ve got from high school who would’ve made as big of an impact as having Devonte’ back for his senior year.”