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John Lucas, Chane Behanan, and Me

January 27, 2014

I met Chane Behanan last week when he came to Moby Arena for his official visit to Colorado State. He sat about 5 seats away from me in the same row.

I first saw him play live in Lexington last season when his soon to be national championship Louisville squad torched North Carolina A&T. My wife liked watching Louisville but she sure wasn’t impressed with NC A&T.

Behanan is working on personal issues with former NBA star John Lucas in Houston as we speak.

I first saw John Lucas in the Spring of 1970 or 1971. And it was not on the basketball court. I was a student at Duke University at the time. Lucas was a student at Hillside High School in Durham. He was a great high school hoops player but he was not on the campus of Duke that day to play pickup hoops.

John Lucas was also a nationally ranked junior tennis player. He came to the tennis courts at Duke that Spring day to get a match or two in with some of the Duke tennis players. I watched for a few minutes before heading over to the gym to play some hoops. Lucas was graceful, powerful, and athletic. I can’t remember which of the Duke varsity players he was playing that day but as I recall, Lucas was handling him pretty good.

The next time I saw John Lucas he was a freshman visiting Cameron wearing a Maryland basketball jersey. He had decided to play for Lefty Driesell who was building the UCLA of the East. His team featured Tom McMillen, who had graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high schooler; McMillen went on to play in the NBA but also was a Rhodes Scholar and US Congressman. The other big was Len Elmore, who had played high school ball at Power Memorial in The Bronx; same school that Lew Alcindor attended. Elmore is a TV hoops analyst these days after earning a law degree. The other guard was a kid named Mo Howard and the other forward was a kid named Owen Brown. The Terps were better than everybody but Bill Walton’s UCLA and David Thompson’s NC State.

And Duke beat them that marvelous day in 1973 when senior Gary Melchionni scored 37 points. It was the only time I saw Lucas play for Maryland.

I respect John Lucas for what he is doing with his life. It’s so easy to envy athletes who achieve at the highest levels but I respect him more for how he has conquered the demons of his youth and how he has brought his strength, hope, and experience to help others.

And I look forward to seeing Chane Behanan find a big dose of serenity in his life, get his college degree, and to take the court at Moby Arena under the guidance of Head Coach Larry Eustachy.

Chane, I have the feeling that this is the start of a beautiful hoops relationship.

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