Jerry Lucas wasn't only one of the most accomplished men's basketball players of the 1960s, he's one of the most decorated players of all-time, leading Ohio State to the 1960 national championship and two other national runner-up finishes. He led the country in field-goal percentage in three consecutive seasons and twice led the nation in rebounding, while cementing himself as one of the greatest double-double machines in the history of the sport.
Here's everything you need to know about Jerry Lucas' college career with Ohio State.
Jerry Lucas' college basketball stats, vitals
School: Ohio State
Weight: 230 pounds
Years active: 1959-62
NCAA tournament record: 10-2
Career averages: 24.3 points per game, 17.2 rebounds per game, 62.4% field goal shooting
What was Jerry Lucas' record in college?
In three years with Jerry Lucas playing varsity, Ohio State went 25-3, 27-1 and 26-2, for a combined record of 78-6. The Buckeyes went 40-2 in Big Ten play during that stretch.
How many national championships did Jerry Lucas win in college?
Jerry Lucas won one national championship in college. As a sophomore, he led the Buckeyes to the 1960 national title with a 75-55 win over California in the championship game.
What kind of prospect was Jerry Lucas in high school?
Lucas was named a Parade Magazine First Team All-American his senior year. The Orlando Evening Star noted that the 6-9 forward scored 2,435 points in 76 high school games — a remarkable average of 32 points per game as a high-schooler. He had led Middletown (Ohio) High School to an undefeated, state-championship season as a junior.
Edgar Allen of the Nashville Banner wrote, "Regardless of where he goes, Lucas looms as the finest prospect to come along in recent years, comparable to Cincinnati's Oscar Robertson and Kansas' Wilt Chamberlain."
When Lucas and his Middletown squad knocked off Chillicothe High School in the Southwestern Class AA Regional tournament in 1958, the Chillicothe Gazette wrote about the game with a sense of inevitability. It wasn't that Lucas wasn't impressive; it's that his reputation preceded him and he lived up to it in every way.
"Much to the displeasure of Chillicothe's cage fans," wrote Ron Barnes of the Chillicothe Gazette, "advance billings on Middletown's fabulous Jerry Lucas and his partners in crime proved to be 100% correct," later adding, "Lucas' performance for the crowd of 7605 was only an expectation."
Lucas was a winner, first and foremost. In March 1958, The Journal Herald in Dayton, Ohio, reported, "...a tournament is a 'new season' and even the fabulous Middletown Middies found that out in their loss Friday in Columbus as Jerry Lucas played in a losing cause for the first time in his life" after Middletown lost 63-62 to Columbus North High School.
Lucas didn't lose a high school basketball game until the last game of his high school career.
In high school, he held the Ohio Class AA records for most points in the state championship game (44) and the most points in any tournament game (53).
Lucas once told a reporter during his college recruitment that he was going to go out for track and field his senior year of high school and once that was over, he was going to pick a college. True to his word, Lucas picked up the discus in the spring of 1958 and he ended up setting a record with a throw of 162 feet, 6 inches.
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What was Jerry Lucas' game like?
New York columnist Jimmy Breslin noted that Lucas could hit a "two-handed overhand set" shot from 30 feet, which of course, was way before the introduction of the 3-point line or the concept of a "stretch-four."
He scored 37 points in his first-ever college game as a member of Ohio State's freshman team in a game that drew more than 11,000 fans. He had 34 points in the next.
In January of his freshman year, Lucas was already considered an All-America candidate. In February of his freshman year, he was spurring newspaper headlines about his exploits in scrimmages between Ohio State's freshman team and its varsity team.
George Springer of the Beckley Post-Herald wrote, "...the talk often went to the Fabulous Lucas as reports were circulated that the Ohio State freshmen regularly were beating the Buckeye varsity in practice games. And yesterday a card comes from C.D. Perkins which verified the reports ... 'George, it seems my boy Jerry Lucas was no high school 'prima donna.' The Ohio State University freshman beat the varsity last week. Lucas got 49 points. This week they did it again and Jerry got 45.'"
That's what led to the headline: "Lucas Scores 94 in Two Tussles Against Buckeyes."
Lucas was a great leaper — the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph once reported that Lucas could reach 15 inches above the rim. He was quick and coordinated, sometimes leading Ohio State's fast break himself despite being 6-9. Lucas was perhaps unselfish to a fault, saying while in college that he didn't want to play professional basketball because he didn't want to have to be a ball hog. When opposing defenses sent three, or even four, defenders in his direction, he found his open teammates and ranked among the team leaders in assists. One newspaper report noted that a significant portion of his scoring was due to his aggressiveness on the boards as he created his own offense.
The Lansing State Journal's George Albertson observed how Lucas improved from his sophomore to junior season, improving his positioning and thinking on the court, using his savvy and not just brute size and strength to get his way.
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What were some of Jerry Lucas' best games?
In 12 NCAA tournament games, Lucas averaged 22.2 points per game, including three games with at least 33 points. In his first-ever NCAA tournament game, he had 36 points and 25 rebounds in a win over Western Kentucky.
In the 1960 national championship game, Lucas had 16 points and 10 rebounds on an efficient 7-of-9 shooting, while holding Cal All-American Darrall Imhoff to just eight points, as the Buckeyes claimed their first national title. It was the second time in the Final Four that Lucas had shut down an All-American, holding him to eight points while the opposing All-American had scored 25 points against powerhouse Cincinnati. Lucas had done the same to NYU's Tom Sanders in the national semifinals, while the Ohio State sophomore posted a 19-point, 13-rebound double-double.
He once scored 48 points against Michigan State during his junior season.
In the next year's national championship game in 1961, Lucas had 27 points and 12 rebounds on 10-of-17 shooting against Cincinnati. In the 1962 title game, Lucas posted another double-double with 11 points and 16 rebounds.
What awards did Jerry Lucas win in college?
Here are some of the awards Lucas won in college:
- 1960 national champion
- 1960 Mideast Regional Team
- 1960 Final Four Most Outstanding Player
- 1960 All-Tournament Team
- 1960 consensus First Team All-American
- 1961 Mideast Regional Team
- 1961 Final Four Most Outstanding Player
- 1961 All-Tournament Team
- 1961 consensus First Team All-American
- 1961 consensus National Player of the Year
- 1962 All-Tournament Team
- 1962 consensus First Team All-American
- 1962 consensus National Player of the Year
- 1960s All-Decade Team
- Named one of the top 15 players in NCAA tournament history in the 75 Years of March Madness Celebration
What records did Jerry Lucas set in college and where does he rank among historical greats?
Here are some of the records Lucas set in college and where he ranks among all-time greats:
- 1st nationally in field goal percentage in 1960: 63.7%
- 1st nationally in field goal percentage in 1961: 62.3%
- 1st nationally in rebounding in 1961: 19.8 rebounds per game
- 1st in rebounding average in the 1961 NCAA tournament: 18.3 rebounds per game
- 1st nationally in field goal percentage: 61.1%
- 1st nationally in rebounding in 1962: 21.1 rebounds per game
- 3rd, 10th all-time in consecutive double-doubles: 38, 24 double-doubles
- T-7th nationally in scoring in 1960: 26.3 points per game
- T-7th, 10th, T-27th all-time in consecutive double-doubles in a season: 23, 21, 15 double-doubles
- T-10th all-time in career double-doubles: 78 double-doubles
What did people say about Jerry Lucas?
Jimmy Breslin (January 1958): "Wilt Chamberlain wound up a distracted youngster suspicious of everybody. The college recruiters were all around Jackie Moreland and they put him into a headline-filled jam. But Jerry Lucas, who is a name everybody in basketball coaching circles knows this season, can be found over a coke at Tops or driving a 1939 car around town or doing any of the things a 17-year-old high school senior does in this industrial town. Lucas is 6-9.5 and apparently growing because his pants are always a couple of inches too short for him. He is a straight A student and president of his class. He can hit with a two-handed overhead set from 30 feet out as easily as he can wheel for a pivot shot or tap-in."
Clarence Young of the Central Press Association (January 1959): "Among the outstanding features of Lucas' performances on the hardcourt are his poise and polish, these qualities being second only to his eagle eye for the basket. He operates as though he is a hardened, Big Ten senior instead of a 19-year-old freshman."
Former Ohio State coach Fred Taylor: "Jerry does things that no coach could teach him. His second or third effort on rebounds has helped us immensely and is second on our squad in assists. He never tries a bad shot, but he's deadly from 15 to 20 feet as he is under the basket."
Taylor: "You can't coach a kid like Jerry Lucas. You just sit and enjoy him."
George Albertson of the Lansing State Journal: "With the wing-span, height, co-ordination strength, speed, moxey and desire to play well that Ohio State's fabulous center, Jerry Lucas, has, there is only one way to counter him — keep the ball away from him."
Gordon Graham of the Journal and Courier (January 1961): "'Is Ohio State the best Big Ten team you ever saw?' That was another question asked (of) us. We could answer this one — yes, we believe the Buckeyes can do more things than any college club we have seen. Some have been as impressive on attack, but this OSU squad has explosive offensive power ... it passes the ball like a pro club."
Purdue's Terry Dischinger: "On the floor Jerry is one of the greatest. Oscar Robertson and I played forwards on the U.S. Olympic team and we hardly ever had to rebound ... just block our men out and Lucas would clear the boards."
Former Saint Joseph's coach Jack Ramsay after losing to Ohio State 95-69: "We planned a man-for-man defense, sinking on Lucas. It's obvious that it didn't work. Ohio State was by far the best team we played this season."
Jerry Lucas quotes
Lucas on his recruitment and the attention he received: "I like all the attention a little, I guess, but sometimes it's sort of embarrassing. We have a good team. When I am singled out I feel funny. The kids ride me. One thing I'm sure of — I can go out for track this spring, I'm a discus man, and when everything is over I can pick my college. I won't have to be rushed into anything."
Lucas on his unselfishness: "Why should I shoot when someone is open? When you have three or four men on you someone has to be open. I don't want to play pro ball so I don't have to be a ball hog."