How Fil-Am Jarod Lucas stepped up to write Oregon State's Cinderella story in the NCAA

Apr 17, 2021
PHOTO: Jarod Lucas/Instagram

THE last time Oregon State University clinched a win in the US NCAA stage was in 1982.

In the almost 40 years since then, the men's basketball team has sunk to the bottom of the cellar. Victory was so seldom that a Bleacher Report article once said that "both DePaul and Rutgers had been to a Final Four more recently than Oregon State won a tournament game."

This narrative, however, was rewritten by this year's batch of the Beavers, making history as they reached the Elite Eight of the recently concluded March Madness.

Fil-Am Jarod Lucas was more than honored to be part of that feat as their starting shooting guard. He was among the seven players with Filipino descent to play in this year's March Madness.

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Lucas is only on his sophomore year, but has already stood out as the team's second leading scorer for the season, averaging 12.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.2 apg. He is also its best three-point gunner, and in one game, racked up a personal record of 26 points.

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The 6-foot-3 player first made his mark during his high school career in Los Altos, where he set a record 3,356 career points — the third-most points in state history.

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Those individual numbers may sound wild, but as far as he's concerned, Lucas wants to be better known as a team player.

"It was a crazy experience," he said to SPIN Life in a Zoom interview. "My team was picked last place in the Pac-12, but we made it at the end of the season, won straight games, and landed the NCAA tournament where we were expected to lose on just the first game.

"But we continued to win and somehow found a way to the Elite Eight, just one game away from the Final Four."

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The 21-year-old played a key role in steering the Beavers to their Pac-12 championships, which paved the way to their entry in the biggest scholastic tournament in the States.

Entering as the 12th seed, Oregon State won their debut game against Tennessee, 70-56. Lucas had 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals in the match.

In the second round, Lucas made 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 dimes against Oklahoma State, which the Beavers soundly defeated, 80-70. In the Sweet Sixteen, Lucas' squad took a drubbing from Loyola-Chicago. The Fil-Am guard was held off to just 8 points and a board, but took matters in his hands to shoot a crucial three in the last few minutes to seal the win, 65-58

The next thing they knew, they were in the Elite Eight.

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"It started a little slow for us but we eventually came out. I'm glad to be part of a good group of guys. Coach Tinkle and all our coaches are very hardworking, and we loved and enjoyed each game," he said. "If you're not having fun, you musn't have loved it."

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    Basketball in the blood

    Born to a Filipina mom and an American father, he eats, sleeps, and breathes sports, along with the rest of his household.

    His dad Jeff is a high school basketball coach and a physical education teacher. His grandfather was a former professional football player, and his younger brother Jordan is one of the most promising volleyball players in the state.

    His mother Christina, a native of Samar, also played volleyball in her high school.

    "I kind of lived in the gym as kid, I always joined my father. He was coaching for 25 years. I started playing competitively in elementary school, I was 8 and I knew I was athletic, but I just continued to work hard," he said.

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    Lucas also talked about his vigorous, disciplined routine, which he says is essential in staying injury-free.

    "I just stay consisent. I lift four to five times a week to maintain my muscles strong and make sure I'm healthy enough to be in a good shape year-round," he shared.

    For cheat days, though, Lucas loosens up and treats himself to lumpia and pancit, occasionally prepared by his mom.

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    The local version of spring rolls are his favorite Pinoy food, but he's eager to dig deeper. While he has yet to pay a visit to the country, he is always stoked to know more about its culture — especially because of how much we love the game.

    "I was always curious, I know I look a little Filipino, but I always ask my mom about the Philippines," Lucas said. "I am also quite aware of how big basketball is right there, my grandpa always told me and I find out for myself too as I sometimes receive love from the fans on Twitter."

    Speaking of Fil-Ams in the game, he had the chance to join Jalen Green and Kihei Clark in an NBTC tourney in the country in 2018. The timing, unfortunately, didn't work out.

    "I was invited in the same event as them. I had the opportunity, but I was in my junior year in high school, [I was] gonna miss a couple of weeks in class so I didn't come," he continued.

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    While hoops is in his blood, Lucas also values his academic life. He's currently talking up a degree in communication, with the hopes of landing a broadcasting career after he finally steps back from his basketball journey.

    The long-term goal? The NBA, of course.

    The Atlanta Hawks' Trae Young is his idol. "I always watch his game, I try to pattern mine with his. I see the shots he make, then I do it myself, I'm just gonna keep working," he said.

    Would he be open to play locally? Lucas told SPIN Life that he regretted not being able to fix his papers to acquire the Philippine passport at a younger age.

    But, he added, if doors will open, Lucas is open to bringing his talent to the local basketball scene.

    "It's always part of my bucket list, and in the future, if opportunity plays itself in front of me, I'll be there," he said.

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    But for now, he's got his eyes on the prize: making sure the Beavers' Cinderella story comes back for a sequel.

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    PHOTO: Jarod Lucas/Instagram
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