GAINESVILLE -- The Florida men's basketball team suffered a huge blow Wednesday as starting point guard Jai Lucas will transfer after one season with the Gators, Coach Billy Donovan said.
Lucas and his mother informed Donovan of the decision at around 12:30 p.m. After starting all 36 games and averaging 8.5 points and 30.1 minutes per game as a freshman, Lucas described Florida as "not the best fit for him," Donovan said. Being far away from his home of Bellaire, Texas, and playing off the ball some in Donovan's system also contributed to the decision.
Lucas, son of former NBA guard John Lucas, has yet to choose a new school, Donovan said.
"Any time a player leaves your program you always get a little disappointed, but at the same time there was a point where Jai wasn't totally happy," Donovan said. "He wanted to try to make it work...I hate to see him go, but my biggest focus for him is I want to see him be happy wherever he can go. We haven't even talked about schools."
Efforts to reach Lucas -- a former Parade and McDonald's All-American at Bellaire High School -- have been unsuccessful.
With All-Southeastern Conference candidate Nick Calathes handling the ball often, the 5-foot-11 Lucas averaged 2.2 assists per game at UF, probably lower than his capabilities. Expect Calathes to share the point guard position with senior Walter Hodge and freshman Erving Walker, whom Donovan calls a "formidable backcourt player" after a 13-point, six-assist performance in a 108-49 exhibition win over Warner Southern on Monday.
Hodge (10.4 points, 2.9 assists per game last season) will slide into the starting lineup with Calathes for now. In his last action in a Gators uniform against Warner Southern, Lucas made 1-of-9 shots for 4 points and four assists.
Losing Lucas' invaluable experience as an "unflappable" point guard will require some adjusting, Donovan said. Lucas was always available if Calathes was in foul trouble, and vice versa.
"He didn’t get rattled by opposing arenas," Donovan said. "When you lose a player like that who’s got that level of experience, it always hurts because you look at a guy like Erving (Walker) in the backcourt, he’s got none. We’ve got to try to figure out some things. We’ve got to get Erving ready.”
Calathes sounded excited to share the backcourt with Lucas a couple of weeks ago at the team's media day.
"We can both play the 1 and the 2, we both see the floor real well, we both have high basketball IQs," Calathes said. "It's also good to have a two guard who can play point."
Donovan hinted at Lucas' preference to be a true point guard instead of playing off the ball. Everything was amicable, Donovan said, from Lucas' relationship with players and coaches to his love for the university.
Perhaps last week's oral commitment of five-star guard Kenny Boynton affected his decision.
“I don’t think he was mad about it, but (maybe he was thinking) 'I don’t know if I want to play over there that much,' " Donovan said about playing off the ball. "I don’t blame Jai. He’s got to be happy.”