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UK announces addition of Jai Lucas

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Plus comments from Lucas and John Calipari on the big news for Kentucky Basketball.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 05 Northern Colorado at Texas Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Kentucky Wildcats have officially added Jai Lucas to the men’s basketball coaching staff, the school announced Monday. Lucas’ official job title special assistant to the head coach and recruiting coordinator.

“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 in a press release. “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. I like my team.”

Lucas will be tasked with providing strategies to help advance the program while offering additional counsel on all aspects of the program including recruiting, scouting, player development and special projects as assigned by the head coach.

As recruiting coordinator, Lucas will independently manage official and unofficial visits and be responsible for all recruiting strategy for the program.

“My family and I are excited about coming to the University of Kentucky and joining the Big Blue Nation,” Lucas said in a press release. “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.”

Lucas has spent the last eight seasons at his alma mater on the Texas Longhorns’ coaching staff. A native of Houston, Lucas began his career as a special assistant of the basketball program under Rick Barnes for two seasons. Upon Shaka Smart’s hiring, Lucas moved into the director of basketball operations role before being elevated to an assistant coach for the 2016-17 season.

In his first season as an assistant, he aided in the growth of freshman Jarrett Allen, who earned All-Big 12 Conference honors and was selected No. 22 overall by the Brooklyn Nets in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Mohamed Bamba was an honorable mention All-America selection and was a finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year award in 2017-18. He was picked No. 6 overall by the Orlando Magic and was the eighth lottery pick in school history.

In 2018-19, with Lucas playing another key role, Jaxon Hayes was named the Big 12’s Freshman of the Year. He was selected eighth overall by the Atlanta Hawks. Texas joined Kentucky and Duke as the only programs with a lottery pick in back-to-back drafts.

Bamba, Hayes and Allen were all heavily recruited by Kentucky, and Lucas played a big part of getting them to Austin. Now, he’ll look to help Kentucky get those big-time recruits and ensure this program remains the gold standard in college hoops.

This is a big addition for Kentucky that should prove to be very helpful on the recruiting trail, especially in the state of Texas where Lucas has deep ties. In addition, Lucas is from a very popular and respected basketball family.

His older brother, John Lucas III, played collegiately at Baylor and Oklahoma State. He went on to play for six NBA teams.

Jai’s father, John Lucas II, was an All-American at Maryland who enjoyed a 14-year career in the NBA and was later head coach of three NBA teams. He is currently on the Houston Rockets’ staff as a player development coach.