Maggie Lucas is a throwback, in the best sense of the word

February 4, 2013 - 1:10pm
Maggie Lucas is averaging 19.9 points per game for No. 7 Penn State. (Mark Selders/Penn State Athletic Communications)

Maggie Lucas is averaging 19.9 points per game for No. 7 Penn State. (Mark Selders/Penn State Athletic Communications)

Maggie Lucas is old-school, in the best sense of the word.

In a time when self-aggrandizement and whining pass for athletic commentary, Penn State  coach Coquese Washington has a throwback gem in her junior guard – who can also play a little.

Over the course of two-and-a-half seasons in Happy Valley, Maggie Lucas has spearheaded a resurgence of Penn State women’s basketball averaging 19.9 points per game this season. The No. 7 Lady Lions are 17-3 and Lucas, a 5-10 guard is on pace to record her second straight 600 point season.  The Lucas-led Lions stumbled against Wisconsin Thursday, but have a chance to show a national TV audience just how good they are when they play Purdue Monday.

Lucas, though, won’t be focused on how many points she gets, even though the former McDonald’s All-American and Big Ten Freshman of the Year, made her mark with her quick and accurate trigger. What’s more important for Penn State is her toughness, and her passion for her teammates.

The latter trait comes straight from her mother.  “No matter how good or bad I play, mom is there after the game with a hug and a ‘Good game Mags’,” says Lucas. “She understands the game, but she understands me better.”

Mom isn’t the only family member who helped Lucas reach the elite level.  “My bothers toughened me up,” Lucas, the youngest of three children says.  “Peter and Ben were very good high school players and they made me compete for everything.”

But let’s not forget dad. “He built my shot, my competitiveness, my game,” she says. “He sits with me after the game and analyzes it from beginning until end.   He is really competitive’ – and so is she.

Want proof? Following a second round NCAA tournament loss to DePaul in 2011, the then-freshman Lucas felt she had performed below her elevated standards. As she entered the offseason, talked with Washington, examined her personal game, considered the effect hard work and improvement could have on her teammates.

So Lucas decided to raise the bar a little higher. While the norm for college basketball players is to relax after the grind of a college season, the 5-10 sharpshooter took a different approach. She decided that the day after the loss she would make 100,000 shots from various positions on the floor before the start of the next preseason.

Yes, that’s make, not take, so even a 50 percent shooter would have to get up 200,000 shots to reach that goal. But it wasn’t just shooting -- her focus was on developing her moves off of the dribble so she could begin getting her shots on her terms, rather than taking what the defense gave her. That attitude and spirit embodies responsibility, and is something that inspires teammates and coaches alike, and her improvement has not only elevated Penn State, it has pushed her into first-round consideration in the 2014 WNBA draft.

With aspirations of a championship and playing professionally “for as long as I can,” Lucas will continue to draw on the lessons learned from family and stick to her old-school formula for success.

Meanwhile, coaches will smile and fans will applaud – and everyone will appreciate how old-fashioned virtues still apply in what some call a me-first 21st century.