Lucas happy with transfer from troubled Baylor

Updated: November 4, 2003, 7:11 PM ET
ESPN

STILLWATER, Okla. -- For the first week or so, John Lucas III slept on a couch at his new teammates' off-campus apartment.

He started going to Oklahoma State football games, began to appreciate the tranquility of the sleepy Stillwater campus and is now allowing himself to imagine what it might be like to win a championship ring of some sort.

Oklahoma State's newest point guard is happy to be away from the drudgery of the past two years and the turmoil of his final days at Baylor.

"I'm just enjoying every minute that I'm here," a beaming Lucas said Monday at the team's annual media day. "It's like starting all over again. I've never seen anything like this. We're like a family here."

Oklahoma State returned only two starters from last season's 22-10 team and desperately needed help in the backcourt following the departure of second-team All-Big 12 point guard Victor Williams. Coach Eddie Sutton had resigned himself to entering the season without a true floor leader.

That's when Lucas showed up in Stillwater under tragic circumstances.

The 5-foot-11 junior was spending the summer in Houston working out with his father, former NBA coach and player John Lucas, when he got a startling phone call from Baylor teammate and friend, Lawrence Roberts.

It was then the younger Lucas learned that another teammate, Patrick Dennehy, had been missing for several weeks and was feared dead.

"It was kind of like a movie to me," Lucas said. "It was one of those things where it seemed like someone was playing a joke on me. I just got down on my knees and prayed about it."

Dennehy, who'd been missing for six weeks, was found shot to death July 25 in a field near a rock quarry south of Waco. Carlton Dotson, who also played at Baylor last year, was indicted on a murder charge in Dennehy's death.

The case rocked the Baptist school and its basketball program.

Coach Dave Bliss, who had recruited Lucas out of high school, and Baylor's athletic director resigned in August amid revelations of NCAA violations.

Lucas, who was already frustrated with the school's lack of fan support and the team's mediocre performance, decided to transfer after the Big 12 said that Baylor players transferring to other league schools wouldn't lose a season of eligibility.

"I'm already past it," he said. "It was a good school and I don't have anything bad to say about it. But I never went back there, even to pack up my stuff. I just haven't gotten the full feel of everything, you know?"

The decision to come to Oklahoma State was easy.

Lucas had always been mesmerized by the orange-clad crowds at Oklahoma State's basketball games on his visits there with Baylor. The presence of fellow Houston native, forward Ivan McFarlin, made the transition a little easier. And, unlike at Baylor, there was a real chance to play in the NCAA tournament for the first time in his career.

"The sky is the limit for us," said Lucas, who averaged 13.2 points and 4.2 assists a game at Baylor the past two seasons. "I'm loving every minute of it. I can see us going real deep into the tournament. Maybe even get a championship ring."

Sutton isn't nearly that optimistic, but he appreciates being able to coach Lucas instead of having to coach against him twice a year. Lucas scored 20 points in Baylor's 74-72 upset of the 13th-ranked Cowboys last season.

"I think John has been accepted and embraced by his teammates," Sutton said. "He's a clever little basketball player. You can tell he grew up around basketball."

Lucas' new teammates are excited about the prospect of playing with someone who likes to pass first.

"He's relieved a lot of pressure offensively for us," junior transfer Joey Graham said. "He's a big asset to this team and he can create a lot of shots for others."

For Lucas, though, it's clear that he's finding solace in more than the basketball court.

"I like going to school events now, I like hanging out with my teammates," Lucas said. "I'm just enjoying every minute on campus.

"It's a new beginning for myself as a basketball player and a person."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index