Transfer of Heart

Ivan McFarlin has averaged less than one assist during his career. His biggest assist will never make the record books but could have a huge impact on Oklahoma State¹s upcoming basketball season.

There are several reasons why John Lucas III chose OSU after NCAA and Big 12 Conference officials announced the former Baylor players could transfer without penalty late this summer.

Lucas¹ father was former OSU star Lori McNeal¹s professional tennis coach. Lucas cherished Gallagher-Iba Arena¹s atmosphere. Lucas desperately wants to play in the NCAA tournament. He respects coach Eddie Sutton. But one key variable was the strong sales pitch by McFarlin, a former AAU teammate in Houston.

³When he found out I was transferring, all he kept saying was, OCome to OSU. Come to OSU¹² Lucas said. ³Ivan is my man. Then after I made my visit there, everyone really accepted me right away. I knew this was my new home.²

Three months later, Lucas is ecstatic about his new home. He¹s already developed a close relationship with senior guard Tony Allen and many of his new teammates. He also has a new appreciation for basketball and friendships.

³When I¹m not in class you¹ll see me around one of my teammates almost every second,² Lucas said. ³Going through something like I did this summer, not getting to know somebody like you want to, you look at life differently. You want to get to know everybody. I want to get to know everybody on this team like they¹re my brother.²

When you¹ve experienced a tragedy, life takes on new meaning. Lucas was at his parents¹ home in Houston when the Baylor saga unfolded this summer.

It¹s still difficult for Lucas to digest Patrick Dennehy, his former teammate, was shot and killed in mid-June. He was shocked when it was announced Carlton Dotson, another former Baylor teammate, was charged with the murder.

The bizarre tale didn¹t end there. Coach Dave Bliss resigned after tapes revealed Bliss was involved in illegal payments to Dennehy and tried to cover up the sordid details.

³Every time I think about it, it¹s like a movie,² Lucas said. ³It¹s hard to talk about. It hasn¹t hit me as much as those who were on campus. I¹ve been trying to stay busy and move on with my life.

³I have nothing against Baylor. I loved my two years there. But it¹s time for me to move on and play my heart out for coach Sutton and OSU. I¹m a Cowboy. I bleed orange. This is my school now. I love it here.²

Truth be told, Lucas loved OSU long before he transferred.

³When we played here last year it was crazy,² Lucas said. ³I was like, OI wish Baylor was like this,¹ a place where people wait outside to get into games. You can just feel the excitement of the crowd. I loved playing here when I was on the away team. I can¹t tell you how much I¹m looking forward to this.²

Lucas¹ late addition fills one of the Cowboys¹ biggest needs. Joey Graham was projected to be OSU¹s starting point guard. With Lucas on campus, OSU has a proven point guard in Lucas which allows Graham and others to play their customary roles.

³What a find he is for us,² Sutton said. ³I¹m sorry for what happened at Baylor, what occurred, and some players left their program. But, gosh, it was like Christmas come early when we got John. I really think he¹s a terrific basketball player. They talk about his ability to distribute the ball but he can really score.²

Lucas, a junior, averaged 13.2 points and 4.3 assists in two seasons at Baylor. His assist totals could double on a talented team that has many weapons, led by McFarlin, Allen and the Graham twins.
It didn¹t take teammates long to appreciate Lucas¹ point-guard skills. Lucas earned respect in pick-up games in September and has continued to earn his new teammates¹ trust in early season practice sessions.

³When I first saw him I really didn¹t think he¹d be able to do anything because he was so small,² said Joey Graham. ³But he¹s proved he can play. I think he¹s the missing piece to this puzzle.²
Lucas, listed at 5-foot-11, is a combination of last year¹s point guards ­ Victor Williams and Cheyne Gadson. Lucas is quick like Williams and sets up teammates like Gadson.

³He will bring more tempo to the team,² McFarlin said. ³John is the type of guy who thinks he¹s got to get the whole team involved. That¹s what we need. He¹ll know what our tendencies are, where we can score and where to get the ball.²

One of Lucas¹ best friends is former Texas point guard T.J. Ford, who also was a teammate on that Houston AAU team three years ago. Lucas relishes his new role of being the trigger man for an up-tempo offense.

³We have Ivan, Tony, the Grahams, Jason (Miller) and Daniel Bobik,² Lucas said. ³That¹s a lot of talent, a lot of people who can score. As a point guard, you can see how talented we¹re going to be, how athletic we are. My primary job is to create for everyone else.

³At Baylor they kept saying, OYou¹ve got to score for us to have a chance to win,¹ so nobody really ever gave me a chance to be a true PG. My thing is to help Tony and Ivan, and Bobik and the Grahams look good. That¹s what a point guard is supposed to do, make everybody look good.²

It¹s that type of mentality that has impressed his new teammates. Allen has spent as much time with Lucas as anyone on the team. Taking nothing away from Williams, Allen said Lucas brings a new dimension.

³(Lucas) likes to pass first and then shoot,² Allen said. ³That¹s a good sign. If your point guard would rather get 10 points and 15 assists that¹s a good point guard. That¹s how he thinks.²    

Lucas, though, is a viable scoring threat. Last season, Lucas scored 20 points in Baylor¹s upset win over OSU at Gallagher-Iba Arena. His senior year at Houston Bellaire High School, Lucas led the state of Texas in scoring (30.2 points).

³He¹s a terrific shooter,² said associate head coach Sean Sutton. ³We thought he was a good shooter, but he¹s even better than we thought. He¹s a better player in our eyes right now than what we thought he was when he came in. It¹s unbelievable how hard he worked this summer with his father.²

His father, John Lucas Jr., was an NBA point guard for 14 seasons and also coached San Antonio, Philadelphia and Cleveland. This past summer, Lucas Jr. spent numerous hours helping his son develop his game.

³I want to be the point guard you can never figure out,² Lucas said. ³You don¹t know what I¹m going to do. That¹s how my dad raised me. You try to cut me off this way, I¹ve got a move to go that way.²

Lucas was solid at Baylor. His father expects him to be even better at OSU where he will be surrounded by much more talent and has a veteran coach like Sutton.

³John has never been intimidated,² Lucas Jr. said. ³When you¹ve been around Michael Jordan and some of the great players he¹s been around, nothing baffles him. If he continues to stay focused, and listens to his coaches, I think he has a chance to develop into one of the better players in the Big 12.²

The No. 1 priority for Lucas is to improve his defense. That¹s another reason he chose OSU. Sutton is legendary for being one of the nation¹s top defensive coaches.

³Coach Sutton is a defensive fanatic,² Lucas said. ³He¹s going to make me a good defensive player. My defense has stepped up since I¹ve been here. It¹s just a matter of me wanting to play D. Everybody had me more offensive minded in high school and Baylor.²

Sutton acknowledges Lucas has much to learn if he¹s to become an all-around player, but Sutton said Lucas has the necessary skills.

³He¹s very quick,² Sutton said. ³If you¹ve got quickness, and good work habits like he has, he can become a good defensive player. He¹s a tremendous worker. I don¹t think we have too many players who work any harder than John. He understands in order to play for us he has to play defense.²
Lucas¹ dream is to play in the NBA. To achieve that goal he must improve his defense and bulk up in the weight room the next two years.   

³My dad has me feeling real confident,² Lucas said. ³A lot of people may say he¹s arrogant, he¹s cocky. I¹m just sure of myself. I¹m not saying, OI¹m going to the NBA, this and that.¹ I know that I¹ve got to work hard and listen to my coaches.²

Lucas predicts his stats will improve but that¹s not what motivates him.

³I¹m not really worried about that,² Lucas said. ³I¹m worried about W¹s and getting into the NCAA. That¹s all I care about.

³We have so much talent here it¹s ridiculous. We¹re going to shock the world how good we¹ll be. We¹re going to be real deep on the bench. Real deep. I¹ve never been on a winning team in college. I¹m really confident we can go deep into the tournament.²

Regardless of how he fares his debut season in Stillwater, Lucas simply cherishes the opportunity to start anew.

³What impresses me, as much as his basketball talent, is he¹s a tremendous young man,² Sutton said. ³We¹ve tried to shower him with a lot of affection and make him feel at home. I really think he likes Oklahoma State. He¹s fit in real well.²

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