LEXINGTON, Ky. — It was one of the worst kept secrets as the University of Kentucky basketball team has confirmed the hiring of Jai Lucas. The former Texas assistant will be a special assistant to the head coach and recruiting coordinator for Coach John Calipari.
The Houston native spent the last eight seasons at his alma mater on the University of Texas’ coaching staff. Lucas began his career as a special assistant of the basketball program under Rick Barnes for two seasons before being elevated to director of basketball operations under Smart and finally to assistant coach starting in the 2016-17 season.
“For our team to add a young but established and accomplished coach to our staff was an opportunity we were thrilled to have,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “I’ve known the Lucas family for 25 years and followed Jai’s career both as a player and as a coach," said Coach Calipari. "As our fans know, Jai was recruited here as a player and knows a lot about this program. I have always been impressed by the work he has done and the relationships he’s created. Jai is another guy who everyone has respect for because of his work ethic and his players-first approach. He will be a great addition."
UK tried to land the Lucas as a player when he was coming out of high school as a McDonald's All-American. Instead, he went to Florida where he was on the All-Freshman team. When he decided to transfer, the Wildcats were again in his final list before he chose to finish out his college career at Texas. Now, he's finally landed in Lexington to help Kentucky in a new role.
“My family and I are excited about coming to the University of Kentucky and joining the Big Blue Nation,” Lucas said. “The opportunity to work under a Hall of Fame head coach and three former head coaches, along with a good friend in Joel Justus was hard to turn down. When you think of college basketball you think of Kentucky and its tradition, the fan base and championships. I am thankful for the opportunity to finally be a part of the University of Kentucky basketball family. Let’s go get number nine.”
Lucas should especially help in his role as Recruiting Coordinator. During his time at Texas he recruited three players who went on to be high draft picks. Jarrett Allen (No. 22), Mohamed Bamba (No. 6) and Jaxson Hayes (No. 8) helped Texas join Kentucky and Duke as the only programs with a lottery pick in back-to-back drafts.
Lucas was an integral part in helping Texas land three top-20 classes during his tenure as an assistant coach. The Longhorns hauled in the No. 6 (2017), No. 8 (2018) and the No. 17 (2019) classes (according to 247Sports) with Lucas among the team’s full-time assistants on the recruiting cycle. The sixth-ranked class in 2017 was highlighted by the signing of Bamba, who was rated as the No. 3 player in the class.