"Everybody pretty much had given up on the kid," said Eric Vaughn, the head coach of Blessed IJN. "There were some people that tried to help him. He's a kid who was abandoned by his mother. It's a great story really, it's a movie. At the age of 3, mom left him ... stayed with dad and he got into accident and became a paraplegic and died a year and a half ago."
Cue in Vaughn.
The minister and traveling team coach offered him a place to stay, a place to get his life in order. Luckett enrolled at Southside High in Fort Wayne, Ind. He's not playing basketball because he's not eligible. In fact, he's only played 8 games during his entire high school career. During that brief stretch he had a 30-point game and a 20+ rebound effort.
We spoke with Mark Miller, who is an authority on Wisconsin high school hoops. He remembered doing a story on Luckett but lost track of his whereabouts. Miller thought he could play, but was rough around the edges. To an extent, Luckett still is rough but getting better.
Recently, one astute observer went to see Luckett in a workout and was blown away. Apparently this kid is the real deal and because he's had a past in which he hasn't been eligible and has had some off the court issues, no one really understands what he's capable of.
"Skill wise, I don't care what anybody says, he can be a poor man's Kevin Garnett," Vaughn said.
Before you get too excited, understand the situation. Luckett won't be eligible to play in college next season. Not going to happen. The best case scenario has him likely at a prep school or possibly a junior college. Even after he settles down academically, school isn't in the big picture plan.
The big picture is the NBA. "He just doesn't have enough exposure," Vaughn said. "If people were to come see him, I think that he's somebody they'd have to take a chance on."
Vaughn freely admits that to draft Luckett now would be taking a huge chance. The young man is developing not just as a basketball player, but he's growing as a person and that takes time.
"Right now its one day at a time," Vaughn said. "That's how we're taking everything. You can get excited and there's excitement when it comes to seeing him play. He's in a situation where we take one day at a time."
Luckett sees himself making money playing the game one day. In fact, he sees Greg Oden and wants a chance to prove himself against a player his caliber.
"He'll get a test out his theory," Vaughn said. "[Playing Oden is] going to be the tough thing for him. He'll play against Greg Oden the first weekend in April. There's no question that Oden is the goal. He's at the top of the food chain."
Playing Oden is one thing. Doing well against him is another. Getting ready to live your life as a professional athlete and being good enough to get onto the NBA radar is another thing. Like Vaughn said, you take it day by day.
"My game is 10 times better now than it was [in Wisconsin]," Luckett said. "I don't fear nobody on the court.
"I've got to develop my game, my mind and my body. Since I've been down here [Vaughn] has been working with me. I'm a lot calmer and I'm more comfortable with my environment. I've been working hard and that's how it should be."
Vaughn knows that Luckett's past which includes some problems with anger and academics will come into play. It's an issue they'll confront head on in the next year. "There's no question [the past] is going to be a concern," Vaughn said. "That's why we have him in school now. They're going to look back at his past but it's like credit history. If you've been paying your bills for the last two years then somebody might take a chance on him."
Preferably someone with a pick in the first round of the 2006 draft.