Jai Lucas keeps up family tradition as next top guard
Posted: Wednesday February 14, 2007 12:55PM; Updated: Wednesday February 14, 2007 2:24PM
For Jai Lucas, serving a McDonald's happy meal with a smile was the most unpleasant option to stomach.
As an eighth grader enjoying the spoils of his father's employment in the basketball industry, Lucas was lounging comfortably around his Houston home. Workouts could wait. One day during the summer of 2003, though, John Lucas gave his son an ultimatum.
"I told him that he can either come to the gym for five to six hours or he can work at McDonald's," says John Lucas, the former NBA player and coach. "Basketball is our family business. It's what we do. If I were an accountant I would have had him doing numbers."
Having left Cleveland that January when his father was fired as the Cavaliers' head coach, the youngest Lucas son returned with his family to their native Houston. Already accustomed to moving since he lived in Philadelphia for three years while his father coached the 76ers, the Lucas family had returned to Jai's birthplace once before while Jai was in the fourth grade. Now rooted in his native city for good, the youngest Lucas was again amongst familiar faces to finish the eighth grade and then to enroll in Houston's Bellaire High.
"His father came up to me that May and asked if I thought Jai was good enough to play varsity next year as a freshman, and I said no at the time," Bellaire coach James Glover says. "Then in August he had Jai work out again, and he was ready."
Four years later, Jai Lucas, 18, is the prince of Bellaire. John Lucas III, Jai's older brother who was the starting point guard on Oklahoma State's 2004 Final Four team, is a reserve with the Houston Rockets. But it is the younger brother's game that is under the microscope these days. Having made a name for himself beyond his surname, the 5-foot-10, 155-pound floor general has outgrown the questions about his height and stature.
"People always say I'm small," Lucas says. "But I've found ways to counter that and silence them."
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