After weeks of speculation, the Kentucky basketball program finally made it official this afternoon, announcing the hiring of former Texas assistant coach Jai Lucas as a special assistant to the head coach and recruiting coordinator.
While Lucas’ track record as a recruiter and developer of talent speaks for itself – he helped the likes of Jarrett Allen, Mohamed Bamba, and Jaxson Hayes become first-round draft selections – the Kentucky basketball program drove the point home later this afternoon by asking several former Longhorn standouts about the former Texas assistant and what he meant for their respective basketball careers.
As expected, the praise was immense.
“My brother Jai Lucas, congratulations on going to Kentucky,” Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson said. “That’s a big next step in your chapter, your development as a coach and as a scout in this basketball world. Kentucky is a great program with Coach Calipari, who’s a Hall-of-Fame coach. You’ll have an opportunity to be around great, young talent.
“I know for me at Texas, you were huge for my development in terms of me becoming a pro, understanding how it is to not be home and kind of have that serious mindset on the court and with school. You helped mold me with my professionalism and taking those next steps to get to the NBA. You’re one of my best friends and I’m extremely proud of you. Have fun in Lexington, baby. Go Cats.”
“Jai, what’s going on bro? First and foremost, I want to say congratulations on your new endeavors in your new job at Kentucky. That’s big time,” Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner added. “You know as well as anybody that you’re one of the main guys that really got me through my tenure at Texas.
“From a personal standpoint, a character development standpoint, and of course on the court, you were one of my main guys there on campus. I just want to wish you the best of luck, I know you’re going to do well with all of the kids and talent [at Kentucky] in the future.”
“I just want to give a big shoutout to my friend and ex-teammate Jai Lucas,” Cory Joseph of the Sacramento Kings said. “Congrats on getting the job at Kentucky. You have a special talent, your IQ is off the charts. You’re a very selfless guy. They should be happy to get someone like you. I just wanted to say congrats brother, take it easy.”
“Coach Lucas helped me in a ton of ways, just little things with guard work, defensive schemes, watching film, all that stuff,” New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes added to close out the video. “I’m really excited to see what he does this year at Kentucky. Good luck to you, coach. Go get ’em.
Here was the tribute from the former Longhorns:
A fitting tribute to our new special assistant to the head coach and recruiting coordinator from some @NBA pupils @RealTristan13, @Original_Turner, @Cory_Joe and @hayes_jaxson pic.twitter.com/tEbY2bIweh
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) August 31, 2020
“My family and I are excited about coming to the University of Kentucky and joining the Big Blue Nation,” Lucas said in the school’s official announcement earlier today. “The opportunity to work under a Hall of Fame head coach and three former head coaches, along with a good friend in Joel Justus was hard to turn down. When you think of college basketball you think of Kentucky and its tradition, the fan base and championships. I am thankful for the opportunity to finally be a part of the University of Kentucky basketball family. Let’s go get number nine.”
“For our team to add a young but established and accomplished coach to our staff was an opportunity we were thrilled to have,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “I’ve known the Lucas family for 25 years and followed Jai’s career both as a player and as a coach. As our fans know, Jai was recruited here as a player and knows a lot about this program. I have always been impressed by the work he has done and the relationships he’s created. Jai is another guy who everyone has respect for because of his work ethic and his players-first approach. He will be a great addition.
“With the staff we have assembled and the people who are a part of our program, I’m really excited to get started with this group,” Calipari continued. “I like my team.”