Duke officially adds ex-Kentucky assistant Jai Lucas to staff | Zagsblog
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Wednesday / November 30.
  • Duke officially adds ex-Kentucky assistant Jai Lucas to staff

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    Duke coach Jon Scheyer has lured away one of Kentucky’s rising young assistant coaches.

    Jai Lucas, 33, has departed Kentucky for Duke, the school announced Monday. 247Sports.com first reported the news last week.

    Lucas, a son of former NBA player and coach John Lucas, will replace Nolan Smith, who left Duke for Kenny Payne’s staff at Louisville.

    “Jai embodies everything I was looking for in this role,” said Scheyer. “I’ve been impressed by his winner’s mindset, great feel for the game, and strong work ethic. Through his impressive playing and coaching career, he has built extraordinary relationships across the basketball landscape and shown a unique ability to connect with student-athletes. I could not be more excited to welcome Jai, his wife, Kori, and son, Jaxin, to Durham.”

    Lucas joined the Kentucky staff as a recruiting coordinator in August 2020 before a promotion to assistant coach/recruiting coordinator for the 2020-21 season. In two seasons with the Wildcats, he helped the program sign five players who played in either the McDonald’s All-American or Jordan Brand Classic games. He was instrumental in landing three student-athletes ranked in ESPN 100’s class of 2021 rankings and recruited two top-100 prospects that had signed with Kentucky for the 2022-23 campaign.

    At Kentucky, Lucas recruited Shaedon Sharpe, Daimion Collins and Cason Wallace.

    “My family and I are excited to be joining the Duke University family,” said Lucas. “The opportunity to come to Duke and be a part of Jon Scheyer‘s first staff was something I felt I could not pass up. I look forward to building on the foundation established by Mike Krzyzewski and the former Blue Devils, while helping Coach Scheyer usher in a new era of Duke Basketball. Durham is a special place for me, and I’m thrilled to get to be around so many of my family members.”

    “He’s super relatable,” Kentucky point guard Sahvir Wheeler said of Lucas last summer, per the Courier-Journal. “We can relate to him as a player, just a person, college student. Not just an athlete, college student. He knows all that we’ve been through.

    “…He’s a super cool cat. Just being around Jai makes life easier. He’s always willing to joke and smile with you. He’s also willing to keep it straight. That’s something you’ve got to respect. I think that comes from his dad because his dad is super blunt, super straight forward.”

    Under Scheyer, who was named the coach-in-waiting last June after Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski announced his retirement following the 2021-22 season, the Blue Devils have the No. 1 recruiting classes for both 2022 and 2023. They have 11 combined players committed for both classes.

    (This post was updated at 12:02 p.m. on May 2.)

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.