KU Player Preview: Landen Lucas


This season in Lawrence, head coach Bill Self and the rest of the Jayhawks will count on senior forward Landen Lucas as an anchor in the lineup. We think Lucas will be a very good player for KU basketball this season.

Steady improvement

It’s difficult to find a player that has improved more in his time in the KU basketball program in the Self era than Lucas. An unheralded recruit, ranked just 258th in the industry-wide 247 Composite. In 2012, Lucas came to Kansas with modest expectations. Fans at the time barely noticed the 6’10” big man’s commitment, especially after Kansas legend Perry Ellis committed to the Jayhawks. Lucas went unnoticed during the season as well, taking a redshirt after playing 12 minutes in a exhibition games against Emporia State and three against Washburn.

In the 2013-14 season, Lucas was overshadowed again by more talented players, and for good reason. That year, big men Joel Embiid and Tarik Black came to Kansas, and along with Ellis, made up one of the best frontlines in the country. Lucas played over ten minutes in a game only three times, mostly in mop-up duty. His numbers were actually impressive, especially rebounding, a consistent theme through Lucas’s career. Lucas averaged 1.4 rebounds per game during his freshman campaign, in only five minutes per contest.

Lucas was recruited over again during the 14-15 season. Highly touted freshman Cliff Alexander was supposed to come in and take the five spot for the Jayhawks, again alongside Ellis. After Alexander’s well-documented eligibility issues, Lucas seized the starting spot, never to give it up that season. In his eight games after Alexander was benched, Lucas averaged 6.4 points and a whopping 7.4 rebounds in 25 minutes per game. He was efficient from the floor as well, shooting 70% during KU’s run through the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.

The story is much the same last season. Top five recruit Cheick Diallo was supposed to anchor the interior defense for the Jayhawks, but eligibility issues, along with Diallo’s slower-than-usual pace of picking up Self’s system dictated Lucas rise to the occasion again. After starting Big 12 play 5-3, Self and the team leaders made a few changes. Lucas took the starting job and didn’t look back, anchoring a solid interior defense for the Big 12 Champion and Elite Eight bound Jayhawks. After taking the starting job, Lucas averaged 7.7 points and 9.2 rebounds in 24 minutes per game.

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A senior breakout?

I expect much of the same in Lucas’s senior campaign. He won’t need to score much more than that, especially with what is undoubtedly the best backcourt in the country and a good scoring big man in Carlton Bragg playing opposite him. Lucas is a perfect role player for this team. He needs next to no shots to be effective, and has never taken more than 10 in a game. He does need to play more minutes than last season, due to the Jayhawks’ relative lack of depth at his position. It’s not unreasonable for fans to expect Lucas to approach a double-double this year in points and rebounds. At minimum, I do think Lucas will average double figures in rebounds this year, especially with how close he got last season in fewer minutes than he’ll likely play in 2016-17.

For Kansas to reach its potential, what do the Jayhawks need from their senior big man? A reasonable stat line would be nine points and 10 rebounds, on somewhere around 28 minutes per game, plus or minus a couple. The extent of Landen’s playing time will depend on Udoka Azubuike’s progression as well. Lucas needs to cut down on his fouls, as 5.5 per 40 minutes will not allow him to play as much as Kansas needs. If he can play smarter, while maintaining his solid defense, Lucas will contend for First Team All-Big 12 honors at the end of the year.