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Knowing each other is making them better
UF teammates Lucas and Calathes agree their brotherly bond is an asset on the court.
By ANTONYA ENGLISH
Published January 12, 2008
Nick Calathes is versatile enough to be "all over the place," coach Billy Donovan says. Calathes leads the team in scoring with 15.2 a game.
Florida's Jai Lucas (5) says earlier this season he was putting too much pressure on himself. Since he has relaxed, his played has improved.
GAINESVILLE - The friendship began several years ago when they were up-and-coming youth basketball players making the rounds on the AAU and all-star camps circuit. It has been cultivated and strengthened in an on-campus apartment with adjoining rooms and mostly one-sided video game battles.
Over the past few months, Florida freshman guards Jai (pronounced Jay) Lucas and Nick Calathes have developed a bond "like brothers," as Calathes describes it.
And they believe it's a major contributor to their early college success.
In Tuesday night's SEC opener at Alabama, Lucas and Calathes combined for 40 points and 12 assists in the Gators' victory.
"We have great chemistry," Lucas said. "I'm around Nick all the time so we know each other pretty well. Just being around each other and getting a feel for one another. We're roommates; our rooms connect. And when you're around a person so much you're going to know things about them that a lot of people really don't, and I feel it carries over on the court. We can talk about anything. We don't hold nothing back from one another."
As the only freshman starters, Lucas, 19, and Calathes, 18, have quickly made an impact.
Calathes, a two-time Florida Mr. Basketball and a McDonald's All-American, is the team's leading scorer, averaging 15.2 points. He also leads the SEC with 5.9 assists. But his biggest asset might be his versatility, his ability to play point guard, shooting guard or forward.
"I think Nicky's a versatile enough player he can be all over the place," coach Billy Donovan said. "It's always a bonus when you have interchangeable parts, guys that can play multiple positions."
The 5-11 Lucas, a McDonald's All-American from Texas and the son of former NBA star John Lucas, averages nearly 10 points and 2.9 assists. Tuesday, he scored a career-high 19 on 5-of-10 shooting.
"I think we definitely give mismatch problems," Calathes said. "We both can handle the ball, we both can really shoot and see the floor well. So I think whoever gets the rebound can go with it. ... So it gives teams a lot of mismatch problems. And our IQ. We're very smart at the game, and our ability to see the floor and shoot the ball well helps us."
Earlier this season, Lucas struggled with his shot and took the initiative to spend extra time working with the coaching staff. He said the key is remembering to do what comes naturally.
"It was just getting comfortable and just stop worrying about it," he said. "With each shot, I was putting a lot of pressure on me, wanting it to go in instead of just shooting and playing basketball. So once I just relaxed, it started coming to me a lot easier."
When Lucas and Calathes aren't in school or at practice, they can be found in their room doing what lots of other college students do: watching movies or playing video games. The difference is Lucas actually enjoys the games, Calathes merely tolerates them.
"He's not really that good, but he talks the most trash," Lucas said. "It's always fun to beat him because he always thinks he's so good, but he's not that good in video games."
No argument from Calathes.
"I've just never been a big video guy," Calathes said. "I got rid of my Xbox like my senior year. I haven't been a big fan of them because you get too addicted. But definitely I talk the most trash. I think I'm probably better at every sport just messing around, but video games are not my thing."