Jerry Lucas is arguably the greatest high school basketball player ever. Never mind LeBron James, the Akron, Ohio, prodigy who graduated from high school into the NBA as the league’s No. 1 draft pick in 2003. Nobody put up numbers like Lucas did while starring at Middletown (Ohio) High School in the mid-1950s.
Lucas led Middletown to two consecutive undefeated seasons, which resulted in back-to-back state championships. In the final four of the 1956 Ohio state tournament, Lucas, as a 6-foot-7 15-year-old, scored 97 points in two games, a state record that still stands.
“I may have been the best, youngest basketball player who ever lived,” Lucas, 74, said recently.
Lucas, the keynote speaker at the Ohio Turfgrass Foundation’s Conference & Show held this week at Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio, wasn’t boasting when he made that claim. He isn’t living in the past. Lucas realizes his basketball skills were a God-given talent, as was his mind. That said, he spent hours sharpening both attributes.
Which brings us to Lucas’ second career as a memory education expert. He has written several books on memory development and wants to change the way children learn. For several years he has been working on an animated website, known as Doctor M’s Universe (Lucas is Doctor M, as in Doctor Memory), which is geared toward educating children.
“When it’s done and in place, education will be revolutionized forever,” Lucas said.
Schools have relied too long on teaching children through repetition, which Lucas said isn’t healthy.
“Repetition isn’t fun, and it never will be,” he added.
In Lucas’ first career, professional basketball, he won an NBA championship with the New York Knicks. His teammates included Phil Jackson, Bill Bradley, Willis Reed and Dave DeBusschere. That championship came after Lucas guided the 1960 Ohio State Buckeyes to an NCAA men’s basketball title, led the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team to a Gold Medal and achieved the two high school state titles at Middletown. He was the first basketball player ever to win high school, college, Olympic gold and professional titles.
Despite his success on the basketball court — in 1996 Lucas was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history — he says his second career as a memory educator is more rewarding.
“It’s something that makes a difference in people’s lives,” he said.
During his talk, Lucas hit on several things that turfgrass managers can bring into their own lives, professionally and personally. One of those things is having a purpose in everything you do, even the smallest things. When Lucas was younger, he shot a basketball at a hoop 5,000 times a day to improve his game.
“Every shot had a purpose,” he said.
Lucas studied every shot, from the ball’s rotation to where it landed if he missed. Lucas was able to discover where the ball would go when it caromed off a certain part of the rim or backboard. Many times, he got to the spot where the ball was landing before anybody else. Not surprisingly, Lucas was one of the game’s most prolific rebounders.
Imagine if we could do the same with something we need to improve on in our lives — to have a purpose and to work on mastering it. Even if you don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, it sure makes sense.