The Wizards latest workout session with NBA Draft hopefuls doubled as a nightmarish trip down memory lane for fans of the Maryland and Georgetown men's basketball programs. If former Michigan State guard Korie Lucious or Ohio's all-time assists leader D.J. Cooper start their pro careers in Washington, perhaps they can make it up to those crossover supporters by serving key backup minutes behind John Wall.
The engaging Lucious, who played his senior season at Iowa State, extended a playful olive branch after the lengthy workout and speaking with Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Randy Wittman. Told that some locals might not be happy with him, the solidly built 5-foot-11 senior immediately knew the cause.
"Ah, the Maryland shot," said Lucious, his smile expanding while thinking back to March 21, 2010. As a sophomore, his buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the top of the key pushed Michigan State past the Terps and into the round of 16.
"I can't do nothing about that. I was playing basketball, trying to win, trying to win a national championship," Lucious said. "If you do mention my name, just tell them I said sorry."
Lucious and Cooper, who in the same NCAA Tournament shot upstart Ohio past No. 3 seeded Georgetown, were among six prospects in town Friday, but the only two guards. The Wizards' roster lacks depth or even bodies in the backcourt outside of starters Wall and Bradley Beal, who watched part of Friday's session from a perch above the practice court.
Washington could re-sign A.J. Price and Garrett Temple, but it's understandable why the Wizards kicked the tires of the two college experienced floor leaders. In addition to the No. 3 overall selection, the Wizards have two second-round selections. The team could fortify their backcourt should they keep those picks, though none of Friday's players are likely to be drafted.
Lucious, who turns 24 in November, ranked second in the Big 12 with 5.6 assists last season while averaging 10.1 points and shooting 80.3 percent from the free throw line. His stop in Washington was No. 4 on his pre-draft tour, though his seventh workout; Lucioius said the Phoenix Suns brought him in three times, the Milwaukee Bucks twice and once with the Detroit Pistons.
"If I come in, I'm just trying to do whatever I can do to help the team win," the Milwaukee native said. "I can't compare to John Wall. He was the number one pick a couple of years ago. I just try to keep the game solid, make the right passes, take the shots when opportunity presents itself."
Last season, he knocked down 36.6 percent of his 3-point attempts for the Cyclones after making only 28.4 percent of his shots from beyond the arc with the Spartans during the 2010-11 campaign.
Lucious was playing in Ames, Iowa rather than East Lansing, Mich. because in January 2011, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo kicked his point guard off the team after 18 games for "conduct detrimental to the team." After sitting out a year, Lucious helped lead Iowa State to a 22-11 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
"You can't take things for granted," Lucious said when asked what he learned from his experience with the Spartans. "When I was at Michigan State I kind of did take things for granted. I felt like I was entitled to do certain things.
"After I left there and transferred, I realized there was more to basketball than just trying to do whatever you want to do. This game is taken is very seriously by coaches, GMs, whoever you are playing for. Invest your time in yourself, do whatever you can to stay on the straight and narrow path. That's what I'm trying to do, make sure my game is at the best level it can be at."
Notes...Adding to the ghosts of local college basketball nightmares theme, University of Florida coach Billy Donovan was also at the Verizon Center, serving as the head coach for the U-19 U.S. national team, which heads to Prague on Saturday. As a point guard for Rick Pitino at Providence, Donovan led the Friars to the 1987 Final Four by defeating Georgetown in the East Region finals. Virginia head coach Tony Bennett is one of Donovan's assistants along with VCU coach Shaka Smart, who was not in town. UVa center Mike Robey made the final 12-man roster.