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Kerry Eggers on Sports: Freshman has worked on his defense, too, in making a contribution

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Oregon State's Jarod Lucas (right) puts up a jump shot against Oregon.CORVALLIS — Jarod Lucas didn't make the 3-point shot that would have beaten Arizona State last Saturday. But he took it with confidence, an important component of him becoming the player his Oregon State coaches believe he can be.

"It was a good look," Lucas said of the corner 3 that bounced off the rim with less than two seconds left, the final shot in the Sun Devils' 74-73 victory. "I felt like it was going in. I had a lot of confidence taking it. It was just a little bit to the left.

"It was a shot I think I make a majority of the time. Corner 3's are one of my better shots on the floor. When I get it the next time, I'll make it."

That's what coach Wayne Tinkle likes to hear from his freshman shooting guard from Hacienda Heights, California.

"Jarod is a great shooter," Tinkle said. "He's our best threat from beyond the arc. When he enters a game, his mind-set has to be that he's going to defend his position like crazy and take and make open shots, like Vinnie 'Microwave' Johnson. I think he's to that point now."

The 6-3 Lucas' shooting and scoring numbers heading into Thursday's 8 p.m. Civil War showdown with Oregon at Matthew Knight Arena don't blow you away. He's the leading scorer among the OSU reserves at 4.7 points in 13.6 minutes per game, but is shooting only .345 from the field and .324 from 3-point range. Lucas is shooting .870 from the free-throw line, however, which would rank second in the Pac-12 if he had enough attempts to qualify. He's at .939 in conference games.

It's not been an easy transition for Lucas from the high school ranks, where he set the CIF/Southern Section career scoring record with 3,356 points (29.4 per game), passing such names as DeMar DeRozan, Tracy Murray, Jrue Holiday, Aaron Holiday, Mitchell Butler and Leon Wood on the list.

Playing for his father, Jeff Lucas, Jarod averaged 39.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists as a senior for a Los Altos team that finished 24-6 and 10-0 in league play. During that season, Lucas shot 49 percent from the field, 43 percent from 3-point range and 89 percent from the foul line. During his career, he made 384 treys. He was a four-year starter on teams that won four straight league titles, and he was named area Player of the Year as a junior and senior.

This season, Lucas hit 5 of his first 10 3-point attempts, then went into a slump.

"Jarod started off hot this year and then got in a funk like so many of our guys," Tinkle said.

"I think he has his confidence back now. His shot is such a weapon, because he gets it off so quick, and he gets fouled a lot. It's key when (opponents) are paying so much attention to Tres (Tinkle) and Ethan (Thompson), that he be ready to go."

Lucas was used to taking 20 to 30 shots a game in high school. With the Beavers, he is averaging a little more than three shots per contest. With so few attempts, it's hard to find a rhythm.

"It's been an adjustment," he said. "Early on, I struggled. It was hard for me to find my way. I lost a little confidence, but I feel like I've gained it back.

"Coach Tinkle and I had a conversation when I was going through a slump. He gave me the confidence to shoot every good shot that I had."

In the coach's mind, worse than missing shots was not taking the opportunities he was getting.

"Jarod passed up a lot of shots," Tinkle said. "I told him, 'Even if I tell you that's a bad one, you have to be tough enough to come back and shoot the next one.' We want him to shoot when he's open ... he doesn't take many bad ones."

Lucas has had his moments this season. He came off the bench to knock down three 3s and score a team-high 21 points in a 68-63 win at Stanford. He made four 3s and scored 18 points in an 89-63 loss at Arizona, displaying his spot-up shooting ability.

What kept the major programs from recruiting Lucas — his offers cames from the likes of Nevada, Nevada-Las Vegas, Fresno State, Mississippi, Santa Clara and Tulsa — was lack of quickness.

"The question was, would he be able to defend and handle the ball?" Tinkle said. "That's why we were really patient with him early on. He plays awfully hard. That's a great starting point. You'd rather say 'whoa' than 'giddyup.' But he has had to learn those things, and he's still learning."

"In high school, my focus wasn't defense," Lucas said. "Coming here, it was eye-opening. I knew I'd have to play defense to stay on the floor, but I didn't know the level I'd need to do it at. Early on, I had to rely on my defense to play. I feel like I'm just starting to be able to put all that together."

Lucas is smart and athletic enough to know how to get his shots.

"It's about creating space off the screens," he said. "That takes my teammates setting good screens, but I have to be able to set it up and get my feet in a quick '1-2.' I believe I have one of the quicker catch-and-shoots around."

"That's for sure," Tinkle said. "He has a really quick release and a great shooting motion."

With five years experience coaching his own son, Coach Tinkle wondered if there would be issues with Lucas playing for someone other than his dad.

'That is one of the things I enjoy the most," Lucas said. "One of the reasons I came to Oregon State was because I was a coach's son. Tres has treated me like a younger brother, and that has allowed me to see Coach Tinkle like a father figure. I can relate to things Tres and Coach Tinkle have gone through, with me and my dad in the same situation."

Tinkle said Lucas' attitude has been a plus.

"Jarod takes coaching," the OSU coach said. "We've lit him up a handful of times, and he always comes back for more. He has really come a long way. He's smart and he works hard, and that's brought him along more quickly than we though his freshman year."

Lucas said he has been pleased to be able contribute his first season.

"I've enjoyed being part of the program," he said. "It's been a blessing to be able to play under Coach Tinkle. My teammates feel like family. Being able to go to Oregon State and play in the Pac-12 was a dream of mine. I'm living out my dream."

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@kerryeggers


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