This is Lucas’ second consecutive turn as a member of the All-Glue team, but he really had to earn his place this time. Eleven games into the season, the Jayhawks lost 7-foot freshman center Udoka Azubuike to a wrist injury. Sophomore forward Carlton Bragg missed four games due to suspensions and has not provided the impact that many expected him to have. That has left Lucas as the Jayhawks’ only serviceable big man in a lineup that features four dynamic perimeter scorers. His ability to hold down the fort—and the paint— is a major reason why Kansas won its 13th consecutive Big 12 title and is ranked No. 1 in the country.
Lucas is ranked fifth on his team in scoring at 7.7 points per game, and he is fourth in the conference in rebounding with an 8.2 average. He also ranks first in the league in two-point field goal percentage (63.9%) and he is third in free throw rate. His position can best be described as a “post occupier.” His ability to draw attention from opposing big men makes it more difficult for them to chase Kansas’ guards around the perimeter. Lucas is an expert screen setter and offensive rebounder, but when he gets those rebounds, he is far more likely to throw them out to an open teammate behind the three-point line than attempt to score himself.
Like Bell, Lucas’s embrace of the Glue Guy role dates back to his final year of high school at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, where he played alongside elite prospects like Anthony Bennett, Myck Kabongo and Nigel Williams-Goss. “I needed to find my role on that team,” Lucas says. “That’s what first started that mindset of focusing on the dirty work. That’s how I was able to figure out how to play with good talent around me.”
Lucas was considering mostly Pac 12 schools when Kansas offered him a scholarship, yet he knew that the only reason the Jayhawks recruited him was because their main big man target, Kaleb Tarczewski, had opted for Arizona. Kansas coach Bill Self convinced Lucas to redshirt as a freshman so he could develop physically, and in the ensuing years Self recruited highly-rated post players like Cliff Alexander and Bragg, who were presumably going to park Lucas on the bench. Yet, midway through last season, Self inserted Lucas into the starting lineup because he asked the four other starters whom they most wanted to play with, and they all said Lucas. Real recognize Glue Guy.
Lucas concedes that there are times when he wishes he could be more of a scorer, but he is realistic to know what it takes for him to get his minutes. A guy doesn't become a two-time All Glue selection without understanding which statistic matters most. “Sure, it's a struggle sometimes," Lucas says. "But winning makes up for everything.”