Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lean and mean: Landen Lucas ready to fight for minutes

Kansas forward Landen Lucas dunks past Stanford forward Stefan Nastic during the second half on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas dunks past Stanford forward Stefan Nastic during the second half on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.



Kansas forward Landen Lucas pulls down a rebound from San Diego State forward James Johnson during the first half on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

A slimmer, trimmer version of Landen Lucas will be touring the Baltic States from Aug. 6-14 with Athletes in Action’s college all-star basketball team.

“It definitely should be a fun time. It’ll be great because I really haven’t had a chance since high school (to play extended minutes),” said Lucas, Kansas University’s third-year sophomore center who is carrying 231 pounds on his 6-foot-10 frame, down nine pounds from his listed weight of 240 last season.

“It’ll be good to get a feel for it and get ready for next year,” added Lucas, who worked as a camp counselor Saturday at former KU staff member Sean Harrington’s Players Camp at New Century Fieldhouse.

Lucas, who will be joined on the Athletes in Action team with Kansas State’s Brandon Bolden and Justin Edwards, Baylor’s Royce O’Neale and Ish Wainright, Wichita State’s Darius Carter and others, explained the work he has been doing on his body.

“I’m trying to drop some body fat before I put on some weight. Hopefully I can lose some body fat, then gain some weight and get it back,” said Lucas, a native of Portland, Oregon.

Lucas, who scored 34 points and grabbed 30 rebounds in limited duty in 22 games his red-shirt freshman season, figures to be in the mix for frontcourt minutes in 2014-15. The Jayhawks’ big-man group consists of Lucas, Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor, Cliff Alexander and Hunter Mickelson.

“I’m just going to bring all the things, anything the team needs to win. That’s what I’m here to do,” Lucas said. “I’ll do the dirty work. I’ll do anything that coach (Bill Self) asks his centers to do.”

He said he has mainly been working on “just how to work the offense better. I mean, I came in spot minutes (last season) to try to do what I can. Now it’s really trying to buy into what coach does.”

Lucas as a third-year player could be counted on to lead some of the younger players.

“It’s crazy how this team is set up. There are a lot of guys who are younger in age but really have to take on some strong leadership roles. I think it’ll be good for all of us to come together,” Lucas said.

He has been impressed with Chicago freshman Alexander, who measured 6-foot-9, 254-pounds at the Nike big-man camp.

“Cliff is good. All our freshmen are good,” Lucas said of the group that includes Kelly Oubre, Devonté Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk.

Lucas said he wasn’t sweating out the recruitment of yet another big man, blue chipper Myles Turner, who late in the recruiting season chose Texas over KU.

“We will welcome anybody. It’s just more competition. He didn’t come here. He chose Texas, and I’m ready to step in,” Lucas said. “I’d been ready to go regardless of whether he came or not.”

Lucas has had a busy summer attending classes on campus while working a batch of camps.

“I got to go to a couple different places in Kansas I’ve never seen before — Plainville, Pittsburg, all over Kansas. I’ve been out there,” he said with a laugh.

“We had a good time working with the kids today. There was a lot of interacting with them,” added Lucas, who was joined by KU teammates Mickelson, Traylor, Graham, Frank Mason, Wayne Selden and Brannen Greene.

Harrington — who worked as KU video coordinator in 2003-04, then worked on the staffs at Northern Illinois, St. Louis U. and the University of Illinois — has spent the past two years working as an analyst for ESPN while running camps on the side.

“The broadcasting is a whole lot more fun and a lot less stress,” Harrington said with a smile. “I try to get to a game (in Allen Fieldhouse) every year if my schedule allows. It’s always good to see those guys. Coach (Norm) Roberts coached me in college, and Jerrance (Howard) was a teammate of mine (at Illinois). It’s always good to see those guys.”

He enjoyed working with the current Jayhawks at his inaugural KC-area camp.

“There was a lot of ‘Yes sir, no sir, thank you.’ It was a fun group to be around,” Harrington said. “They (Jayhawks) are always going to be good, no question about that. Coach Self does a great job with them. They’ve got great, talented players. They are the team to beat every year in the Big 12.”

More on Baltic tour: Lucas’ Athletes In Action traveling team will be coached by Colorado assistant Mike Rohn. He’ll be assisted by Texas A&M; assistant Mitch Vanya. Other players: Brian Sullivan, Davidson; Kendall Smith, UNLV; Ike Nwamu, Mercer; Tre’Shaun Fletcher, Colorado. ... The team will train at the University of Colorado from Aug. 1-5, then play games in Estonia and Latvia. Lucas will return to Portland for a few days before reporting back to campus for the start of school.

Summer league: Former KU center Tarik Black scored six points and grabbed six rebounds while playing 12 minutes in the Houston Rockets’ 78-71 victory over Atlanta in NBA summer-league action Saturday in Las Vegas. Black was 3-of-6 from the field while missing two free-throw tries. ... No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins of the Cleveland Cavaliers averaged 15.5 points in four summer-league games in Vegas. He hit 15 of 29 shots (51 percent) on two-pointers, going 2-of-14 from three. Asked by if he’s worried about trade rumors, he said: “No, I just play ball, man. Wherever I go. It would be great for me to learn (from LeBron James if he stays in Cleveland), pick his brain and see what it takes to get to his level. It would be good.” ... Former KU guard Ben McLemore scored 11 points off 4-of-7 shooting in 23 minutes in Sacramento’s 80-61 win over Chicago in Vegas. He went 1-for-2 from three.


Suzi Marshall 8 years, 4 months ago

It seems that Self will rotate Mickelson/Lucas at the 5 with Alexander mainly at the 4 spot. Self has all the other guys, including Ellis, working on their perimeter game. We are going to need the length, along with toughness, to compete with UT, KY and others. It’s Lucas’ time and after 3 years prepping, he should be ready to contribute.

Aaron Paisley 8 years, 4 months ago

The starting line up will be Alexander and Ellis in the post, Oubre, and Selden on the wing, and whoever wins the PG job. Traylor will be the first big off the bench, and Lucas and Mickelson will be fighting to be the 4th big the rotation.

Rodney Crain 8 years, 4 months ago

Aaron we play that starting lineup first game of the season, we will have another 10 loss season. You are expecting Perry and Cliff to protect the rim and rebound, sorry that is just not going to happen, they will isolate Cliff and Perry is soft. We have at least 7 games, probably 11 against tall talented teams that will pound it inside without a 6'10" player in there. Maybe in conference play those guys will start together but I would rather have someone that can protect the rim without fouling, then Perry and Cliff in there.

Aaron Paisley 8 years, 4 months ago

2 of the 3 most successful teams in the Bill Self era did not not have a rim protector in the starting line up. The national title team had Jackson and Arthur as the starting post and the 2010-11 team had the Morris twins start. So, please tell me why KU can't be successful this year without a rim protector in the starting line up? Bill Self has always started the two best post players regardless of their 4/5 designation and always will. Christian Moody is the only exception to this trend at KU.

Suzi Marshall 8 years, 4 months ago

You may be right. Self is probably trying to build in flexibility and options. We'll see how the pieces come together in October- December.

Rodney Crain 8 years, 4 months ago

We start your 5 and we will have issues all year long, especially against taller teams. Perry is not Jackson or Arthur on defense, not even close please. Morris twins, seriously you are using them as examples as great defenders? Even with that said they were better than Perry on defense too. Perry is soft and disappears at time. If we leave him in there Cliff will help out and pick up fouls, which will reduce his presence in games. If he doesn't foul we will be chasing games again from being behind. Self will play the guys who can defend first this year. Perry is not top 5 on this team with his defense. You are dreaming if you think there will not be a much stronger emphasis on defense since his team is shorter than usual. Perry played with two great shot blockers, this year he is going to need to play better at defense to start. He will not have a swatter behind him to clean up the mess. Hunter has a chance to start if he can protect the rim, Same with Lucas. Perry and Cliff and Kelley together yikes that sounds like a train wreck.

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 4 months ago

Mickelson is something of an X-factor right now. He's proven as a shot-blocker and he's had good reviews in practice in the past, but we haven't heard anything about him all off-season. Coach has billed him as a shot-blocker and a pick and pop guy since he signed with KU, but if he's not ready to start by November then Alexander will likely start as a 5. I expect Alexander to have serious foul troubles early on though especially if tasked with protecting the rim, similar to a young TRob and just about any other young post that Self has brought in. In which case we probably will see a rotation of guys (Cliff, Traylor, Mickey, Lucas) playing alongside Ellis in the post trying to protect the paint.

Clarence Haynes 8 years, 4 months ago

Because of his length, I thought that Lucas should've played more in the Stanford game.

Mark Lindrud 8 years, 4 months ago

I hope like Traylor last year, this is a breakout year for Lucas. He showed signs last year. Now he needs to build on it, and if so he will provide quality minutes.

Robert Brock 8 years, 4 months ago

Ellis is strictly a 4. Coach Self had him practicing on the perimeter on defense - primarily because some clubs, such as Iowa State, will require that our bigs roam out to defend their outside shooters.

Mark Lindrud 8 years, 4 months ago

It doesn't always matter who starts, but a lot can ride on who's playing well, providing good defense, and match ups. I see some good diversity in this team, and experience that was lacking last year. We won the big 12 title with a lot of new players. This year that's not quite the case. I trust Self.

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