Starting Guard will Transfer

Fresh off of their first exhibition game of the season, the Florida Gators got a bit of surprising news on Wednesday when starting guard Jai Lucas approached Head Basketball Coach Billy Donovan with his intentions of transferring. Donovan passed this on to the media Wednesday only an hour or so after talking it over with Lucas.

Jai Lucas started the exhibition game Monday night and is coming off a season where he averaged almost 30 minutes a game as a freshman. According to Donovan being a long way from home and not feeling like he was a good fit in Donovan's offense were contributing factors for the decision.

"We got a little bit of bad news today," Donovan notified an unsuspecting media gathering. "I met with Jai Lucas and he's decided to transfer. We had the chance to sit down and I had a chance to meet with his mom, too. I feel bad because Jai's a great kid, he's got a great family and I think anytime a player leaves your program you're always disappointed. At the same point I think there was a point where Jai wasn't totally happy and wanted to try to make it work. I think there's probably a lot of contributing factors. One is being far away from home, and not feeling like it's the best fit for him is how he put it."

Lucas is a point guard at heart and with the play of fellow sophomore Nick Calathes and the introduction of guard Erving Walker. His minutes controlling the ball and the offense were not quite as much as maybe he wanted. Donovan understands that and doesn't have a problem with Lucas' thoughts along those lines.

"I think the biggest thing he felt was the fit and how he was fitting in I think he loves our guys…he loves the school…he loves the coaching staff. He got along with everybody. I think on the court fit, and how he wanted to play and things he wanted to do, he just didn't feel like that was the right fit for him.

"He understands my responsibility is I've got to try to make decisions to put the team in the best position I think for us to be the best we can be. We were using him a little bit off the ball. I don't think he was mad about that, it was more ‘I don't know if I want to play over there that much.'

"I think on any team, there's always a little give and take by everybody. Walter gave up a starting spot. I don't blame Jai. He's got to be happy. If you're unhappy everyday practicing and playing, that's no way to live or be. And I want him to be able to go somewhere where he can be happy.

There are absolutely no hard feelings here and Donovan will do everything in his power to help Lucas get to where he wants to go and help him prepare for that move when it comes.

"He's got a great family, he's a great kid…I hate to see him go," Donovan said. "My biggest focus for him is I want to see him be happy wherever he goes. We haven't even talked about schools and where he's going to go. Right now it looks like he's going to stay here for the rest of the semester. He can come in here and use our practice facility, use our strength coaches and our academic adviser, but he's not going to practice today and he's not going to play (Thursday). Right now, he's going to look at his options and we'll give him his release and try to help him pursue whatever opportunities he wants to pursue going forward."

Donovan didn't sound too surprised by the decision. There must have been rumblings about the move.

"Well, you always here rumors about things," Donovan said. "I'm sure for Jai it's something he's been thinking about for a long time. And one thing I give him credit for, he tried to in his mind make it work to the best he could make it work so he could be happy. As a coach you realize these guys only have so much time to play and the last thing you want is someone to be unhappy. Speaking to his mom, as a mother when you see your child is not totally happy, that's a concern there. He just wants to get into a situation he feels is a better fit for him."

This will create a little havoc in the back court and will likely cause a blip along the way during the season. Donovan knows he needs some new guys to step up and take charge of the situation that is handed to them.

"I think that's something we've got to figure out," Donovan pontificated about how the team will change because of the absence of Lucas. "I made a comment after the game that I thought Walter made a great sacrifice of going to bench for the benefit of our team, which I thought was the thing I wanted to look at. Certainly I'll move Walter to a starting spot…he deserves it…he's earned it. We'll move him there tomorrow.

"As far as the backcourt, we're trying to get Adam Allen (ready). We'll see where he's at. I think Erving (Walker) has proven he can at least be a formidable backcourt player for us and someone we can hopefully rely on. He's a freshman and he has his ups and downs, they all are.

"That's the one thing I really liked about Jai, he had valuable experience going into the season from last year, being the starting point guard and playing 30-plus minutes a game and being in the rigors of the road in the SEC. I thought Jai was an unflappable kid. He didn't get rattled by a lot of opposing arenas. And I think that when you lose a player with that level of experience, it always hurts. You look at a guy like Erving back there and he's got none outside of an exhibition game the other night. We've got to try to figure out some things. We've got to get Erving ready. The one thing about it was if Nick was in foul trouble, you could always play Jai and if Jai was in foul trouble you could play Nick. Now we're missing one of those guys. It's kind of like you lose your starting quarterback and then your backup gets hurt and then you're playing your third-string guy. When you've got two very experienced backcourt players and you lose one, if Nick's in foul trouble, you go to a team that doesn't have a lot of experience back there at that position and that's something we have to deal with."

For Donovan his young and inexperienced team just got younger at about 1:00 pm on Wednesday. Jai Lucas will be missed this season, but others will have to step up their game and take charge.

Fightin' Gators will have more on the rest of the squad from Donovan later.

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