Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Wall: Ohio Athletes

The newest feature on "The Rock", due to an overall change in format and fresh look, my Wednesday articles will now be centered around, "The Wall: Ohio Athletes". Similar to Boomer's Wall of Fame articles, but I will now be talking about one athlete that was born and raised in the great State of Ohio that became a well known athlete in the collegiate and/or professional level. I hope all you Ohio followers enjoy a little history from some of the most legendary athletes to come out of the Buckeye State. The inaugural athlete, Mr. Middletown/Buckeye himself, Jerry Lucas.

Jerry Lucas
Mr. Basketball
Jerry Ray Lucas born (March 30, 1940) and raised in Middletown, Ohio, became a well-known basketball player in his teenage years. A city that enjoyed a lot of basketball success in the 1940's and 1950's, was one of the best programs in the United States. By age 15, Lucas had grew to his adult height of 6'8'' and became a legend at Sunset Park, a local summer hangout for high school, college, and even professional basketball players. Lucas, using his rare 20-10 eyesight and and superb mitts (hands) to craft his shooting and passing, creating his own drills and games that he would use later on in his career. Middletown High School enjoyed back-to-back undefeated/state championship seasons with Lucas leading the way. Unlike today's stars, Lucas focused his attention to offensive rebounding to get his scoring and rarely looked for his own shot, allowing for his teammates and the upperclassmen to handle most of the shooting. Lucas was also a outstanding rebounder on the defensive end, using great positioning and his big hands. Lucas in the pre-tv/internet era of hoops, was written about in big-city papers and only suffered one-loss in three seasons at Middletown High School (Senior year, State Championship Game). The first player to ever be named to three AP All-State 1st Teams, his #13 was retired in Feb. of 2009.

After dominating the competition in high school, Lucas received over 100 college recruiting letters. Lucas after meeting with Ohio State coach Fred Taylor,  made his decision to attend THE Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Lucas would go on to become a two-time AP Player of the Year (1961-62), teaming up with the likes of John Havlicek (another Ohio star) to guide the Buckeyes to the first and only NCAA Mens Basketball Championship in 1960. Lucas and the Buckeyes would play in two more National Championships, however, losing both times to the University of Cincinnati Bearcats. Adding to his collegiate years he earned the Gold Medal, with team USA in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. Jerry Lucas' #11 is retired at Ohio State, and to this day is probably the greatest Buckeye to ever play the game of basketball.

Jerry Lucas played professional basketball with the Cleveland Pipers (ABL), then went on to play for the Cincinnati Royals (1963-1969), San Francisco Warriors (1969-1971), and New York Knicks (1971-1974), were he was apart of the Knicks 1973 NBA Championship. Lucas had career averages of 17 ppg, 15.6 rpg., and 3.3 apg. In 1980, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1996, he was named to the 50 greatest players of all-time team and then in 1999 was named to SI's five-man College All-Century team.

Clearly, Jerry Lucas, 72, was a great basketball player out of the state of Ohio and he had one, if not the greatest amateur career winning two High School state titles and making it to 3 straight NCAA Title games, winning the first (1960).