By Mike Sherman
So tell me again what Jai Lucas did that’s so wrong.
Explain to me how waiting for a better deal wasn’t one of the most brilliant moves by a recruit in years.
Fine, tell me you’re upset that the prized point guard didn’t sign with OSU or OU. That’s understandable. Just don’t tell me that Lucas strung the Sooners and Cowboys along. Don’t tell me his decision to wait and wait and wait and wait until he finally committed to Florida on Monday was motivated by some craving for attention.
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas did exactly that in his Insider blog on espn.com, saying “If you wait this long to make a decision, there is something wrong with you.”
Bilas is a bright guy, an attorney who you have to believe took an economics course or five at Duke. Maybe he forgot how the laws of supply and demand work. But as The Oklahoman’s Andrea Cohen points out here, Jai Lucas certainly hasn’t.
Advised by a savy father who played and coached in the NBA, Lucas stayed in the game long enough to be the last of two McDonald’s All-Americans still at the table, long enough to see everyone else’s cards.
Seems like a lifetime ago when Lucas narrowed his finalists to OU, OSU, Maryland and Kentucky. That was way back in the fall and three of the four (OU knew it was in for a tough season) seemed bonafide.
Maybe waiting was Lucas’ way of calling their bluff. From where he was sitting, here’s what those teams were holding:
OU missed the postseason for the first time in 25 seasons.
OSU won its first 11, lost 8 of its last 11, missed the NCAAs for the second straight year and didn’t show up for an NIT opener at home with Marist. Not long after that, assistant coach Jimmy Williams, a Lucas family friend and a key figure in his recruitment, left the staff.
Kentucky bowed out of in the first round of the NCAA, then coach who recruited him, Tubby Smith, bolted Lexington for Minnesota.
And Maryland? His father’s alma mater capped another uninspiring season by falling to Butler in the round of 32.
Sure all four teams offered Lucas the chance to swoop in and play the savior. Maybe someone told him he could do the same for the two-time defending national champions.
That someone was likely his father, John Lucas Jr. who has a decent track record as a career counselor. That post-Baylor fiasco transfer to OSU turned out pretty well for John Lucas III and the Cowboys (All-American honors, Final Four trip, NBA career).
In the end, old man Lucas’ connections had to help and probably led him to believe Florida junior point guard Taurean Green was headed to the NBA. Then Green signs with an agent, and 10 days later Jai Lucas is a Gator.
And he’s going to be a good one if he can handle the pressure of the SEC half as well as he played the recruiting game.