Lucas making journey from ball boy to NBA point guard

Sunday January 7, 2007 12:54 PM

Making a Point

Lucas making journey from ball boy to point guard

Damien Pierce Staff Writer

HOUSTON -- John Lucas III understood what being an NBA ball boy entailed when he was shagging rebounds as kid for the Houston Rockets.

Stand under the basket. Grab loose balls. Pass to an NBA star. And repeat often.

Lucas just didn't have much interest in following that job description like all of the other kids.

"I always wanted to shoot the ball and be one of the guys," Lucas said. "I never wanted to pass it to them."

He's becoming more willing to dish the ball with age.

Nearly two decades removed from his ball boy days with the Rockets, Lucas is beginning to carve out his own NBA career as a point guard with the same team.

Lucas, the son of former Rockets guard and NBA coach John Lucas, is two months into his first full season in a Houston jersey.

The point guard is averaging a modest 4.3 points and 0.6 assists per game in 8.4 minutes of action, but his role has been steadily increasing because of injuries across the roster.

The kid who didn't want to give the ball up to Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson is now seeking out Tracy McGrady when he's on the court.

"I wanted to be a Houston Rocket ever since I was a little kid," Lucas said. "I remember being at The Summit and hanging out with my father and guys like Olajuwon and Sampson. I love being here because I feel like I've been around this organization all my life."

Lucas' journey from Rockets ball boy to backup point guard hasn't been short.

Despite becoming the Big 12 Player of the Year at Oklahoma State and leading the Cowboys to the Final Four, Lucas went unselected in the 2005 NBA Draft.

The point guard's 5-foot-10 frame and questionable defensive skills didn't make many NBA scouts drool. Lucas ended up spending most of the 2005-06 season with the Tulsa 66ers in the NBA Developmental League before briefly appearing in 13 games as a rookie with the Rockets.

Lucas said the slow start to his career didn't make him second guess his future in the league.

"No doubts at all," Lucas said. "It's always been like that for me. I knew it was going to be a process for me because a lot of people were scared of my size. It’s been like that my whole life so I have to constantly prove people wrong when I step on the court."

He started to do that over the summer.

Behind his three-point shooting and ability to get to the bucket off the pick-and-roll, Lucas turned heads with his impressive play at the Toshiba Vegas
Summer League. He averaged 23 points and 7.6 assists in five summer-league games, earning himself a contract with the Rockets.

Lucas' father said his son was constantly in the gym constantly working on his game before heading to Las Vegas.

"I told my son he wasn't ready last year," the elder Lucas said. "He really worked on his game and reinvented himself. Now, he's with the Rockets."

Lucas said the biggest change in his game has come with studying the playbook.

"I know the offense way better than I did when I was here last season," Lucas said. "I've just been learning the concepts and schemes of our team. I know where everybody is supposed to be now and I can take more control of the team as a point guard. I've learned a ton from coach (Jeff) Van Gundy because he's a great teacher."

Lucas has seen his role increase of late.

Since the Rockets have been slowed by injuries, Lucas has emerged as viable option behind starting point guard Rafer Alston, averaging 8.6 minutes in the past seven games.

has provided the Rockets with a change of pace with his energy off the bench.

"One of the assistant coaches believes he's got a change to have an Earl Boykins-type of a career," said Van Gundy, referring to the Denver guard. "The main thing is John has to improve defensively. He's done fine on offense. He gives us good burst on offense. He's a confident shooter, he's aggressive and I like what he does. He's just got to get better on the defensive end."

Alston said he has seen confidence building in Lucas.

"He's got some games under his belt," Alston said. "When you get some seasoning, you start to learn and grow and understand the pro game. He's playing good. I always ask him what he's learning when he's not in the game because he can really study the game even when he's not playing by just watching. He can be prepared for when his time comes."

Lucas is well aware of it.

"I've come a long way," Lucas said. "I always see the ball boys before the game and I remember being in that spot. I'm having fun being here now, but I don't want to be satisfied with just being here. I've got a lot more to do."