Jerry Lucas - The Ohio State University

The Ohio State University

Offered more than 150 athletic scholarships, Lucas certainly had his pick, when Ohio State sent then-freshman coach Fred Taylor to meet him. The two had a good meeting while fishing, and Lucas chose the Buckeyes. After landing Lucas, Taylor was promoted to varsity coach also. His choice of Ohio State also directly encouraged Mel Nowell and Bobby Knight to chose there as well, and also encouraged John Havlicek to choose Ohio State as well, creating one of the greatest recruiting classes in college basketball history.

In 1957 and 1958 Lucas was named Mr. Basketball USA. As of 2012, only LeBron James and Lew Alcindor have also been listed twice.

Lucas insisted on an academic scholarship, making his basketball play optional in an effort to control his college career. Highly intelligent, Lucas made education a priority over basketball. With the NBA in its financial infancy at this time, he had no thoughts about pro ball. In 1958-59, the freshmen met the junior varsity several times before Buckeye varsity home games. Lucas and the freshmen drew 10,000 fans to these games. These fans then largely left before the varsity game, sometimes even including football coach Woody Hayes, a noted Lucas fan. In two games against the varsity, Lucas scored a total of 98 and pulled down over 40 rebounds.

When the three star recruits --- Nowell, Havlicek and Lucas --- became sophomores in 1959, they teamed with junior Larry Siegfried and senior Joe Roberts to run all the way to the national championship. Lucas led the way averaging 27 points, 17 rebounds, 60% shooting and perhaps five or six assists per game. It was a good balanced team, but one that ran well because Lucas chose not to be a selfish star. All five starters scored in double-figures.

Lucas rated behind only University of Cincinnati's Oscar Robertson as 1960 NCAA Player Of The Year, and that point was debated.

The 1960-61 team went into the NCAA Finals undefeated before losing to Cincinnati in an upset in overtime. During the 1961 NCAA Tournament, Luke became the only player ever to record a '30-30 ', 33 points and 30 rebounds in a single tournament game, versus Kentucky. In the 1961 final, Lucas had played well for OSU, but other Buckeyes had poor games in the upset loss. A shocked and disappointed Lucas then briefly left school and toured the Soviet Union with an AAU team coached by John McClendon.

The 1961-62 team made it to the NCAA Finals also, a remarkable three straight for Lucas. Seeing the final against Cincinnati as his last game ever, Lucas tried to play on a badly injured knee, which he had injured in a win over Wake Forest. The decision to play while injured likely costing his team a chance at another national title, and ended his great college career on a sour note.

Lucas was named Player Of The Year in both 1961 and 1962. He was Big Ten Player Of The Year all three years, had led the nation in shooting accuracy as a 20-point scorer all three years, and had led the nation in rebounding twice. More importantly, his team was a winner. The Buckeyes went 78-6 over three years. He was commonly rated the greatest collegian ever upon graduation, to that time.

Lucas also earned his bachelors degree in three years, and had spent his senior year in post-graduate studies.

His overall amateur record of two Ohio high school championships, then three NCAA Finals with one championship was a total amateur record that perhaps has no match in basketball history. To that, he also added an Olympic gold medal in Rome in 1960.

Lucas's #11 became the second uniform number to be retired by Ohio State University, ahead of many of the school's football legends. He is the only player to be Big Ten MVP three times.

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