Ever since Tom Izzo started recruiting Kalin Lucas, only one player comes to his mind: Chris Paul, current point guard of the New Orleans Hornets and former Wake Forest star.
"Ever since I started recruiting Kalin, that's who I thought he played like," said Izzo. "But he's got a ways to go to fill those shoes but he's that type of player, that can get it from one end to the other, and who can do some stuff shooting the ball."
"He's a Chris Paul-like poor man right now but if he gets to be a real man then he'll be a heck of a player," added Izzo. "Chris Paul was quicker than quick and pretty tough and I really liked the kid and Kalin is a good kid."
With 17 games under his belt in his freshman season, the 6-foot point guard from Orchard Lake St. Mary's has come into his own with MSU.
Joining three other incoming freshmen to the program in the summer, Lucas says he has changed since day one at MSU.
"At first it was a little intense just trying to compete," said Lucas. "But now we are getting more comfortable on the floor and coach has more confidence in us."
"I have to give credit to the upperclassmen, as soon as I got here, they were talking to me telling me things I need to do and things I need to work on," said Lucas. "I think the first thing that they told us was our defense, that coach was going to preach defense to us, that he was going to get after our man-to-man defense."
As the season has progressed, so has Lucas' play, getting better with each and every game, even developing a pretty solid jump shot.
"I think it was me getting as many shots up as possible, in high school I was just more going to the hole," said Lucas. "I think I'm getting more comfortable, the coaches and the players are getting more comfortable with me as well."
Although he can't point to one single breakout game, it could be the Dec. 22 showdown with No. 4 Texas, as Lucas' career-high 18 points and defense on the D.J. Augustin propelled the No.9 Spartans over the previously undefeated Longhorns.
From that point, Kalin had new found respect from the Spartan fans and everyone at MSU, seeing just the kind of player Lucas can be. He responded with 17 points against Wisconsin Green-Bay after the Texas game.
"I think he's got a chance to be a special player here," said Coach Tom Izzo. "He's getting better everyday; he's starting to understand the offense more and more. He's not even shooting it as well as he has been shooting it, he can get around just about anybody."
With such high praise for his freshman point guard, does Izzo believe that Lucas' progression is right on track?
"He's ahead of where I thought he'd be in some ways," said Izzo. "What Kalin is that I didn't know is that he is a better shooter than I thought he was and he is tougher than I thought he was. He can take stuff from me, stuff from the players, he can take physical stuff and mental stuff."
As Lucas grows and gets better, it can only help the other MSU guards, Drew Neitzel and Travis Walton.
"For being a freshman especially being a point guard in this program he's doing a great job of understanding things," said Neitzel. "He's looking for his shot as well as distributing the ball, he's definitely one of the quickest guys I have ever seen, from one end to the other, he's got a lot of talent."
After being on the court for virtually entire games last season due to a lack of depth at guard, Neitzel now can get a breather on the bench while Lucas runs the point. Many times this season, Izzo has even chosen to play a three-guard lineup, having Lucas join Walton and Neitzel out on the court.
Lucas improved shooting and offensive production has even made him a possible go-to guy late in the game.
"I think he's going to be that guy that we can go to late in the game, we can get him to penetrate and kick to somebody and he has to still make those good decisions and I don't mind the ball in his hands at all," said Izzo.
With his ability to drive the lane, Izzo has also mentioned using Lucas' speed late in the shot-clock at any time in a game.
With such pressure though, Izzo has shown that if he needed a player to make a shot, he would isolate leading scorer Raymar Morgan, as he tried to do late against Purdue, or his All-American Drew Neitzel.
"It's tough to put that kind of pressure on a freshman to put the ball in his hands and let him make a play, "said Neitzel. "Coach understands that he still relies on the upperclassmen and the experienced guys late in the game."
But Lucas expects the ball to be in his hands throughout the game, since he is the point guard, and he knows what to do with the ball at any given situation.
"It's just me trying to get more confident, confidence in myself," said Lucas. "I think coach has a lot of trust in me, I will be having the ball about 90 percent of the time, so for me having the ball in my hands, I just have to be smart."
"In those situations you just have to be smart, don't try to force anything or rush anything, just look for the open man or just look to attack, and try to take what the defense gives you," added Lucas.
It's just me trying to get more confident, confidence in myself; I think coach has a lot of trust in me, I will be having the ball about 90 percent of the time, so for me having the ball in my hands, I just have to be smart.
Lucas is averaging 9.4 points per game but 13.5 points per game since his career-high performance against Texas. He has also dished 71 assists this season and 4.1 per game on the season.
While Lucas appears to be coming into his own in his freshman year, Izzo and Neitzel both believe he still has a ways to go.
But only being a freshman helps Lucas a lot, as he has the rest of this season and three more years at MSU to develop into one of the best point guards in the country, although he already might be one of the quickest ones.
Lucas Showing Glimpses of Greatness
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