Lucas excited about opportunity

When Jai Lucas got out of bed this morning, he had know idea what the rest of the day would hold. As things got more hectic and his press conference drew nearer, he began to focus on one of the biggest decisions of his life.

That decision makes him the newest addition to Florida's recruiting class as they reload after losing five starters who carried them to back-to-back national championships.

"It's been pretty hectic," Jai Lucas said. "I woke up without anything on my mind. I went to school and finally made my decision."

As the day began, Lucas had no idea that he would end up at Florida. He had liked everything the Gators had to offer, he liked head coach Billy Donovan and he had developed great relationships with the other members of the 2007 recruiting class.

"I had the option of three schools, but I had a great feeling about Florida and the whole situation that they have going on there right now," Lucas said. "I just thought it would be the perfect opportunity with everything they lost."

Lucas knows what becoming a Gator brings. It brings the pressure of trying to rebuild after the Gators' remarkable last two years, but it also brings the attention of opponents who will try to knock the Gators while they are down.

"The rebuilding process ahead really made it intriguing," Lucas said. "Them wining the last two national championships really puts a bull's eye on them for next year. A bull's eye is something that I'm used to with my last name being Lucas, so a lot of people may have run away from the pressure, but I saw it as an opportunity to go in and defend the Florida name."

The players Donovan already locked in for next year was also a big plus.

"With the recruiting class that they have signed, I feel great about the situation, and in the next year or two I think we have another chance to win the national championship if all the right pieces fall into place," Lucas said.

He had the opportunity to play with Nick Calathes at the McDonald's All American game, and he had the chance to play with Chandler Parsons at the Jordan Classic last month in New York City.

"We all have great relationships," he said. "Playing together on the Nike circuit, we've gotten to know each other real well."

Both Calathes and Parsons played a big role in luring Lucas to Gainesville.

"They played a big role because they expressed how much they would like to play with me," Lucas said. "Going in and knowing people that I already know, and I know how good they are on the basketball court and how good they are off the court, that's really something that I looked at. I feel really comfortable coming in with that group."

Now, Lucas's attention turns to recruiting his friend and the top undecided prospect left in the nation – Huntington's (W.Va.) Patrick Patterson. Patterson is expected to make his decision on Wednesday afternoon.

"I will most do what I can," Lucas said. "I would absolutely love for him to come with me to Florida."

The two haven't talked since Lucas made his decision earlier today, but they have texted each other.

"He texted me back congratulations and everything," Lucas said. "I haven't really had time to talk with him, but I will make some time."

Ultimately, Lucas's family and Donovan had the biggest impact on his decision.

"My family had the biggest influence," he said. "They care so much about me, and they only want what's best for me. When I narrowed it down to the three schools, I got their help. And then I was ready to make my choice, I went to my father for his blessing."

"My relationship with [Donovan] played a big role. I've known Coach Donovan ever since he started recruiting me in my sophomore year. His style of play is something that I really look forward to playing. The way he continues to develop his players is something that I really looked at."

With the big announcement behind him, Lucas is glad to be a somewhat normal high school senior again.

"It feels like I am so free," he said. "After today, I have no more answering questions. I can just focus on the rest of my high school career and start getting ready for college."

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