It seems like every college basketball season, there's one player in the game who can move so swiftly, he's on a level all his own. That player's speed just jumps out at you so much that it appears unfair. In past years, Illinois' Dee Brown and Texas' T.J. Ford come to mind. Michigan State junior Kalin Lucas is this year's model - except he's a more consistent scorer and better distributor than Brown, and possesses a better jumper than Ford.
Illinois head coach Bruce Weber coached against Lucas four times in the Big Ten and described him thusly: "He's as quick a player as anyone in the country. From top of the key to top of the key, he gets there really quick, and it puts you in a bind, puts you on your heels, he might be quicker than Eric Snow or Mateen Cleaves, he seems like one of those little bugs that just flies down. And they work at it."
During my exclusive interview with him, I asked Lucas about the Michigan State point guard tradition and if he gets inspiration from the work of Steve Smith, Magic Johnson, Mateen Cleaves and so on.
"Those are all great players that came before me, and they're all winners, one thing I want to do is win a national championship just like Mateen did," he responded.
I also inquired about the flipside, the pressure and responsibility of running the point at Michigan State.
"Yeah I do talk to Mateen a lot, and Mateen tells me this is my team and I have to be the general I have to run the team, I have to give guys shots, but I also have to get my shots," he said.
The 2010 NBA Draft won't be as point-guard friendly as this one, so if Lucas forgoes his senior season, he could hear his name called in the late first round on 2010 Draft night.
The big knock on Lucas? He's quite undersized: listed as 6 feet tall, but that's certainly a stretch.
Kalin was the consensus Big Ten Player of the Year in sophomore season, largely because he runs the floor so well and spent most of the season among the national leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio.
"Every point guard does need to be the floor general, he has to run the offense," Lucas said. "He has to tell people where to go. He has to stay calm and he has to keep his composure... I try to keep it under one turnover a game, but mostly I just try to play solid at all times. It does get to me if I am turning the ball over, then I know I just need to clam down and make the easy pass."