OSUs late bloomer gets buffed up
• David Lucas had to dodge Dad's shadow before claiming his court time
CORVALLIS Ñ He will almost surely be Oregon State's prime inside threat this basketball season. As a 6-7 junior who has grown to 237 pounds, with a soft jump hook and an improving perimeter game, he is beginning to gain the attention of NBA scouts.
A year ago, David Lucas was a walk-on squad member, undermotivated and destined to spend most of his time at the end of the bench. Since then, he has earned a scholarship and as much playing time as he can handle, along with the respect of his teammates and coaches.
'I have told him 100 times since the end of last season: His basketball life has never been better,' says Jay John, the second-year coach of the Beavers.
Lucas is about as unlikely a basketball success story as it comes, and not because of his genes. His father, Maurice, proved he could play a little during his 14 years in pro ball. Echoes of 'Luuuuuuke!' still rattle around old Memorial Coliseum in Portland, remnants of his glory days as the Trail Blazers' power forward/enforcer and Bill Walton's sidekick in the late '70s.
Lucas' two sons, Maurice II, 22, and David, 21, grew up in their father's shadow. They liked basketball but perhaps avoided the pressures of the limelight that went with it. The oldest boy never played during his years at Tigard High.
'Maurice wasn't very interested,' says the elder Lucas, 51. 'I gave him the wrong name. I should have named him Hank.'
David was taller and a little more talented, 'but he wasn't a great athlete or anything,' the older Lucas says. 'He played enough to hang out with the guys, but he wasn't that interested in basketball.'
Maybe his father's legacy 'had something to do with it,' Lucas Sr. says. 'That's a big burden for a boy to carry. I never forced him in that direction. If he didn't want to do it, that was fine.'
It may have gone further than his pop's name. When David was 8, Maurice and Rita Lucas divorced. For the first year, the kids Ñ Maurice, David and Kristen, now 17 and a senior at Tigard Ñ lived with their mother. About 11Ú2 years later, their father gained custody. David saw his mother less frequently than he wanted during his formative years and says he developed some resentment toward his father because of it.
'I was kind of distant with him for quite a while,' David says. 'We didn't get to see our mom that much, and I thought it was his fault. It really wasn't. I was kind of angry and bitter at him. It was hard growing up, because my parents didn't get along. Like at Little League games, they would both come and there would be some kind of drama.'
Lucas Sr. remarried a couple of years after his divorce, and his new wife, Pamela, 'tried to take over the role of my mom,' David says. 'She really wanted to, but I didn't want to get that close to her.'
Two years ago, Rita moved from Portland to St. Louis. David hasn't seen her for about 1 1/2 years.
'We talk all the time on the phone,' David says, 'but our relationship could be better.'
Senior year shows the possibilities
David says his relationship with his father has grown stronger.
'We have grown a lot closer,' David says. 'I go to him for advice a lot, especially about basketball. He has helped me quite a bit. That has been a lot of fun.'
David played youth basketball and enjoyed a decent level of success, but he didn't go out for basketball as a freshman at Tigard.
He says his father didn't push him to play, 'and I didn't really want to play. No real reason. I wasn't that tall, maybe 6 feet, and I didn't have that drive. My dad said, 'All right, I'm not going to make you play. If you don't want to play, don't.' '
Lucas worked out with Howard Avery and spent some time playing on his Triple Threat AAU teams as a freshman and sophomore. Tigard coach Shawn Alderman told David he ought to try out for the high school team, 'but I would watch them conditioning and think, 'Man, I don't want to. That looks hard.' '
As a junior, Lucas changed his mind and tried out for the school team.
'People tell you, 'You're too tall to be walking around here and not playing basketball,' ' Maurice says. 'That's what swayed David initially.'
David made the Tigard junior varsity and got to suit up for varsity games, though he played little. As a 6-3 senior, he emerged, leading the varsity in scoring with a 14-point average and earning second-team All-Pac-9 League honors.
'He was OK as a senior,' his father says. 'I saw him as a late bloomer.'
So did Alderman.
'He was our best player as a senior, and it didn't surprise us he wanted to go on to play in college,' the Tigard coach says. 'We said at our postseason banquet that his best years were ahead of him. You could tell his senior year he figured out he wanted to be a player. He was talented, just 6-3 and really skinny.'
Court time comes slowly
Lucas considered playing for Gordie James at Willamette, but high tuition costs changed his mind. He enrolled at Oregon State, studied computer science and spent some time working on his game at the Dixon Sports Center. The next fall, he turned out for the OSU team under coach Ritchie McKay. As a redshirt freshman, he played 29 minutes in nine games, scoring three points.
Last season, as a redshirt sophomore under John, Lucas rode the bench through the first 10 games, playing three minutes of one game.
'I had a poor attitude,' David says. 'I kind of got down on myself, gave up because I wasn't playing. I thought I was working hard in practice, but I wasn't. I talked to my dad, and he said, 'Sometimes it goes like that. Don't give up. Work at it every day. If you do your best and they don't play you, then it's on them.'
'I stepped it up, busted my butt every day. Coach said he wasn't going to play me through the whole preseason, and I told myself, 'All right, I'm going to bust my butt, anyway.' '
Things changed. Reserve forward Jarman Sample was ruled academically ineligible, moving Lucas up in the depth chart. Starting forward Brian Jackson was injured in the first half of a game against Arizona, and Lucas stepped in and performed ably. He averaged 16.5 minutes a game the rest of the way, moving into the starting lineup for the final three games of the season. Lucas finished with averages of 6.6 points and 3.6 rebounds while shooting .510 from the floor.
Lucas says he devoted the past summer to working on both his body and his game. Last season, he started the season at 210 pounds. This season, he will be pushing 240.
'There are some big guys in the Pac-10,' he says. 'I have to be bigger. I feel quicker and stronger. I think I will be a better threat around the hoop. I worked a lot on my left hand, on facing up so I can be an outside threat. Three-pointers, 18-footers, short jumpers, taking it to the hole. É I have more of an all-around offensive game now.'
Shocking Dad, then the world
John is guarded in his appraisal of Lucas and his potential.
'Nobody has any idea what David can do,' the OSU coach says. 'He has never committed to the weight room before last spring and summer. He has never committed to being in condition until then. Never have these level of expectations been placed upon him.
'What happens next is on him. He is going to get every opportunity to shine. I am not giving away playing time. He has to keep out of foul trouble, which has been a problem. He has the ability to score, but I have to see more in the other parts of his game. I wouldn't say his commitment to practice is near what it will be as time keeps going, but he has gotten a lot better. He understands it more now than he did a year ago.'
Lucas says his goal for the new season, which begins Tuesday with an exhibition against EA Sports, is to help his team win 20 games. That seems virtually impossible, since the Beavers have no seniors, are a unanimous preseason pick for last in the conference and haven't won 20 games since 1989-90, Gary Payton's senior year.
'I have a good feel about the young guys on our team,' Lucas says. 'I want to shock the world.'
Lucas already has shocked his father.
'I never thought he would play college ball,' says Maurice Lucas, who attends all of the OSU games in the Northwest now. 'I never suspected he was even interested in it. An opportunity presented itself, and he was ready for it, and all of a sudden it was like, 'Whoa!'
'And he has some skills. He's a lot quicker than I was (at Marquette). He jumps higher than I did. I played more to the ground. He has serious good hands and good instincts around the hoop. That little half-a-hook thing is deadly. You don't see that very often.
'Now his body is all bulked up, and he has a little swagger to his walk. I'm proud of him. He's done it on his own. That's very important for a young man like David.'