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15 Days Until Kansas Basketball: Ranking The Rotation: #5 Landen Lucas

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Des Moines Practice Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

When Kansas signed Landen Lucas out of high school, it was a bit of an afterthought. Part of it was due to him being the 258th ranked player in the class of 2013 according to 247’s Composite Rankings, and part of it was when he signed. Lucas committed a week or so after Kaleb Tarczewski, KU’s top target in that class, committed to Arizona.

It’s at this point I should mention I have been in the Landen Lucas camp for some time now:

During Lucas’s redshirt year I remember watching him come in the two exhibitions and just dominate on the glass. I’ll be the first to tell you I’m not a scout, but the way he got position down low and attacked the ball coming off the rim, I knew he would be a good rebounder once he added strength. And boy has he been. Last year he was 2nd in the Big 12 in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage.

If you want to know part of why he’s so good on the glass, peep this clip from last year’s game at Texas. Perry Ellis gets a pick and pop play run for him, and immediately after the shot goes up, Lucas establishes inside position on his man (on the offensive glass, no less):

Lucas has come along offensively as well. He shot right around 75 percent at the rim last season, aided in large part by his ability to get excellent position down low. Here’s Lucas beating is man in transition, sealing him off, and making the (probably tougher than it should have been) layup:

Here’s Lucas getting amazing inside position on Derek Willis during the Kentucky game and drawing the foul:

Lucas has gotten a lot better at finishing through traffic as well, as evidenced by his NCAA tournament performance:

Lucas is also a great screener. Here he is getting Wayne Selden free and then rolling to the basket for an alley oop while ESPN fawns all over Shaka Smart while Kansas is pantsing him:

Of course, his calling card is his defense. Watch him get all the way across the lane to contest a shot, and then recover to block the follow up attempt:

This could have been a foul, but Lucas is among the best I have ever seen at simply jumping straight up to contest a shot. He’s not hacking away at a guy, he’s not reaching over the top, he’s simply jumping straight up to take away vertical space. If the offensive guy creates the contact (which you can certainly argue here), it is not a defensive foul. It’s not as flashy as Jeff Withey blocking everything in sight, but it is just as effective.

Now let’s watch Lucas stick with Isaiah Taylor, one of the fastest players in the league last year, and contest his shot. I skipped the part where he stepped over him after:

Lucas still has some work to do. I would like to see him be able to step out and hit a little 10 footer, just to keep guys honest, and his passing could probably stand to improve. He’s never going to be Joel Embiid, but with his rebounding, defending, screening, and improved scoring ability, he’s a vital cog to the Jayhawks lineup.