Dupree Lucas, a member of the 2003 Class 6A state championship basketball team at Wichita Southeast, now gets ready to play in the biggest game of his life...or so you'd think. Lucas, a senior guard for Kansas University's first round opponent - Portland State - says he's treating it like any other game, even with history being completely against the 16th-seeded Vikings. Here's what he had to say before his team's Wednesday practice in Omaha.
Ryan Greene: Is there a point of pride in playing Kansas?
Dupree Lucas: I just think it adds a little more excitement to the game, for me, just going back and playing the team I've watched so closely and seen all growing up. I think it adds an anxious feeling to you, to get out there and play against them, but besides that, I think it's just take it as a regular game, you know?
RG: How much did you watch them growing up?
DL: Depends on who was playing. I watched them a lot when they had Kirk Hinrich and Drew Gooden, because that team was just fun to watch. I liked a lot of the players' games on that team. Besides that, I didn't watch KU too much.
RG: When you watch them on film, do you see any vulnerabilities?
DL: I'm not going to say vulnerabilities. Obviously you see weaknesses in every player you play against, but the weaknesses on the KU players are minimal, so you've just got to go out there and play your heart out, give everything that you've got because they're not gonna give you anything.
RG: How hard is it going into a tournament as a 16-seed knowing that one has never won?
DL: I've never been to the NCAA Tournament, so I can't really answer that question. This is like just another game to me against another opponent I think we can have a chance to win against. I always take that approach every game, I never went into a game thinking that I was gonna lose. I don't know. It just kinda makes it like you have a better opportunity, that's all I see it as.
RG: What do you guys have to do well to be able to hang around in this game?
DL: I think we have to do everything well, actually. Take care of the ball, rebound well, shoot well, defend well. Because we're playing one of the top teams in the nation. There's no slip-ups. They're not gonna give us anything, so we've got to just take whatever we can get.
RG: What's the best team you've seen collegiately yet on the floor?
DL: Probably UCLA this year, or Washington State. Washington State's solid, but UCLA is just overwhelmingly talented, one through five. That'd probably be the best team.
RG: What do you learn from that experience of playing a top-five team that you take in now a couple months later?
DL: Just go out there calm and know that it's just a basketball game. Don't look at the crowd and get overwhelmed by anything. Just take the game as what it is. It's a game. You've been playing it ever since you were five, six years old.
RG: Was that a problem when you guys played at UCLA? Were you guys maybe not as calm? Were you looking in the crowd?
DL : I think so. We came out with a couple turnovers, couple quick shots, just a little anxious, but besides that, once we settled down, we played all right.
Lucas averaged a team-high 13.2 points as a junior for the Vikings and was the Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year. He also led the team in assists as a junior, with 3.9 per contest. Injuries have slowed him a bit this year, dropping his scoring average to just 5.6, but still, for he and fellow Wichita Southeast/Portland State teammate Brian Curtis, this game will be treated as the perfect stage on which to shine.