Jonah Lucas was a local standout during his time at Harrison High School and took that hard work to Marquette as a preferred walk on under second year head coach Shaka Smart. Jonah will return to West Lafayette Tuesday night to face the Boilermakers in this season’s Gavitt Games matchup. Hammer and Rails connected with Lucas heading into the matchup to catch up with one of the better local players to come out of Tippecanoe County in the last few years.
Hammer and Rails: You had a very good career at Harrison High School, What led you to choose Marquette?
Lucas: Marquette became a pretty clear and quick choice after talking with coaches really. Some of the foundations for the program are Relationships, Growth, and Victory, and speaking with the coaches, it became clear that those weren’t just words used to sound good. As a preferred walk-on it is a different level of “recruitment” but they really seemed interested in me and thought I could provide a variety of things based on my experiences, family, and where I come from.
Hammer and Rails: Were you a fan of Purdue growing up here in West Lafayette?
Lucas: Honestly, I never had any problems with Purdue, but I often chose the path of rooting against Purdue to annoy my friends. My family has a great relationship with the Painter’s and I have always enjoyed watching them play, as well as people I know and met that work closely within the program. So, I would say I was a secret fan of Purdue.
Hammer and Rails: Your dad was a player in college. What has it been like having him in your corner?
Lucas: As well as being my coach in high school, I think we got a lot closer despite being farther away. He has really reached out a lot to check in and ask how I am as well as how the team is doing and it means a lot to have that kind of support from home for as hard as it is. He has not only given me on-court advice, but also stresses the importance of my grades and how I handle myself as a man. I’m extremely fortunate to have that in my life, and he has definitely made my transition easier.
Hammer and Rails: What will it be like for you to play inside Mackey Arena as a college basketball player?
Lucas: It has been something that I have been really excited about, considering how well known and nationally recognized hard it is to win at Mackey is for opposing teams. Growing up, I have been to numerous games and have seen many great players come through Purdue and the fans always were bought in and high-energy once the lights turned off for player introductions. I’m so excited to experience it as an opposing player, and to go to war in that hostile environment.
Hammer and Rails: What has your role so far on the team been?
Lucas: I have a pretty unique role as a walk-on to replicate a lot of what opposing teams may do, and so far I have loved every second of it. Occasionally I will find myself in practice when someone goes down with injury or doing something disciplinary, but the guys have really embraced me and helped me navigate the speed, new terminology, and other things like that. I feel right at home with every guy and know that I can lean on them when times get tough.
Hammer and Rails: Marquette is a pretty young team this season. How big is your freshman class?
Lucas: Our freshman class consists of 1 redshirt freshman (Keeyan Itejere), 3 true freshmen (Ben Gold, Chase Ross, Sean Jones), 2 walk ons (Me and Caleb Kozinski) and 1 grad transfer (Zach Wrightsil). We are a decent sized class but overall a pretty young team. Oso, Tyler, and O-Max have really led the way in leadership, but a lot of our sophomores have started to speak up which has really taken us a long way from where we started. Our youth may seem like a disadvantage from an outsider perspective, but I really believe that they are as capable, if not more capable, than anyone else in the country.
Hammer and Rails: Purdue fans are familiar with Coach Shaka Smart from his time at Texas and VCU. What has it been like being a player under his leadership?
Lucas: Shaka has been awesome. He loves work and being in the gym everyday and his positive energy radiates throughout the guys on the team. He has a ton of valuable experience and has created a program this year with total buy-in from coaches and players alike. He’s intense, fiery, enthusiastic, and cares so much about each individual guy on our team that it is easier to forget about what we may be dealing with physically, emotionally, etc. and just play all out.
Hammer and Rails: Will you have some friends and family coming to the game?
Lucas: I anticipate a good amount of friends at Purdue to come, and my family is definitely all trying to make it at all costs. They are excited for my little “homecoming” and quickly became Marquette fans by hearing all the stories I have been able to provide from the summer and preseason, so I am excited for them to see us in our first big test with Purdue.