Michigan State sure has a rich history of legendary point guards. Magic Johnson, Scott Skiles, Mateen Cleaves, Drew Neitzel (perhaps more of a local legend), and without reservation roll out the red…err…green carpet for…Kalin Lucas!
At the end of this prestigious carpet sits two NCAA championships (1979, 2000), five NBA titles, the NBA record for assists in a game (30, Skiles), countless other stat accumulations, wins and assorted award accreditations that make one proud to be a Spartan.
Some things, however, just don’t show up in the box scores. Like for instance Magic Johnson’s awe inspiring smile, Skiles’ knack for multi-tasking basketball and substance abuse, Mateen Cleaves’ bulldozer, yet magnificently fluid frame and Drew Neitzel’s swift basketball on a rope ball-handling skills. These intangibles are not quantified by numbers.
Lucas’ legend has yet to be totally defined, but like the other greats above, he shares one main category that can’t be evaluated with stats, numbers or Dick Vitale’s Bald Dome Index.
He’s a warrior.
It’s a quality that puts pride aside and allows one to lay everything (body, mind, soul, etc) on the line with a devotional will to win in the name of your team, with unconditional love.
And although NBA stats were listed above, this kind of pure passion and zest for the game isn’t found in the NBA. It’s what college hoops are about. It’s my favorite part of the game.
This formula amplifies with exponential urgency as moments, games, and seasons are at the brink of disaster. This is what separates the good from the greats and the greats from the legends.
Kalin Lucas has this pureness to him that I’ve enjoyed throughout his career. He’s always been intense, but not loud. Flashy, but not cocky like Joakim Noah was, is, always will be. Man, that guy was terrible. Lucas is the anti-Noah (although you can’t argue with Noah’s pair of titles).
You can’t help but want this so badly for Lucas. He truly deserves to walk out of East Lansing with a championship. The two Final Fours are good and all, but you can tell he wants more.
It was difficult to project if Lucas was smiling in jubilation or wincing in pain as he trudged down the floor after made baskets. One cannot discount the injuries he's sustained throughout his career, particularly through the end of hard fought seasons.
This Purdue game was one of those moments where legends are solidified like the drying of wet cement. One of the most difficult seasons in Spartan history was in grave danger of coming to an abrupt, fairly horrific ending. Michigan State was listed as “last team in the tournament” the morning before playing the No. 9 ranked Purdue Boilermakers—who recently greased this very same Spartan squad at HOME not more than a week or so prior. A loss would surely mean…the end.
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It’s a tough game to watch as a fan, because you can’t help but fear for the worst. You almost want to watch the game squinting like you’re in the face of a giant mass of incandescent gas. But, you get over it, get brave and throw on your favorite gear. Perhaps grab a beer.
Lucas, when his team needed him the most, put up his career high, 30 points, boiling the Boilermakers with unbridled brilliance! Spartan fans have seen him throw the team on his back before. In fact, that would be the theme of the second half of the 2011 season, but this performance was scribed by its awe inspiring urgency.
He came out to send a message and that message rung through the arena at Conseco Fieldhouse (50 miles from Purdue’s campus) loud and clear. Lucas and the Spartans would not be denied as he diligently made his first four three-pointers, which was also a personal best.
With 8:41 left in the first half, Purdue and Lucas were even at 15 and the Spartans lead was 14. The tone was set and Lucas remained locked in throughout the victorious Spartan serenade. It was the fist-pumping hootenanny and jamboree I’ve been calling for all season!
Michigan State fans have been waiting for this team to breakout of a season long slump and play to their potential. Losses to UConn and Duke were previously the high points of the season (sad), because they weren’t blowouts.
This time around, the Spartans got their blowout and weren’t on the receiving end of it. It’s about time, and the timing couldn’t be more pertinent.
It reminds me of Drew Neitzel’s final moment of greatness: Second round of the 2008 NCAA tournament. No. 5 Spartans, underdogs to the No. 4 Pittsburgh Panthers. Four minutes remaining in the game. Spartans are up one and Neitzel has the ball at the top of the key. Confidently dribbling, you just KNOW he is about to reach for the dagger. Neitzel shakes and bakes a pretty good defender in Ronald Ramon and drains a three in his face. Onions!
That, my friends, was Neitzilla!
Neitzel went on to score two more consecutive buckets to seal the game; together with then freshman, Kalin Lucas—they scored 21 of the last 25 Spartan points. It’s quite clear moments like that are dear to the killer instinct of Kalin Lucas and are destined to continue.
Selection Sunday is in view and the odds are you’ll find senior Kalin Lucas leading the Spartans into battle on March’s biggest stage. Win, lose or booze—Spartans fans can breathe with more comfort when Lucas has the rock.
Allstate commercials try to make you feel like you’re in good hands, but there is no insurance policy to protect the heart of a warrior in battle. It beats for the pride of the green and white.
And THAT is what legends are made of.
More from Ryan C. Zerfas at his blog with the same title. KISS method people...http://ryanczerfas.blogspot.com/