KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Landen Lucas' seventh-grade fandom for the Oregon Ducks knew no bounds.
Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) passes between Purdue's Vince Edwards, left, and Caleb Swanigan during the second half of a regional semifinal of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 23, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
He committed to wearing something related to the school every day for a year. And he did. His bedroom was painted yellow and decked from floor to ceiling in Oregon gear _ rugs, chairs, blankets, just about everything you could imagine.
“I’m not exaggerating,” said his mother, Shelley Lucas. “He really committed to it.”
But as Lucas prepares to lead top-seeded Kansas into Saturday night’s Midwest Regional semifinal, that boyhood fandom that still exists to this day must take a back seat. The senior forward will be out to end the Ducks’ season when they meet at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
Lucas’ fandom wasn’t random: He was born in Eugene to parents who both went to Oregon. Shelley competed in track and field for the Ducks before sustaining a career-ending injury, while Richard was a star for the basketball team in the late 1980s and early ‘90s.
So ever since Selection Sunday, the possibility for a game between Kansas and Oregon was in the back of Landen Lucas’ mind. He tried not thinking about it too hard _ there were many factors that would go into that potential matchup _ but eventually the dream was realizied.
"I'm looking to go into it like another game, which is going to be tough,” Landen said. “I was happy to see that they won [Thursday] and excited for this matchup. Hopefully I can contain it."
The excitement Lucas needs to contain isn’t just the nerves of playing in a second-straight Elite Eight game. It’s that he’s playing against his childhood team and his parents’ alma mater.
“He’s a big fan of the Ducks,” Kansas coach Bill Self said, “not only because he grew up in Portland, but because his father played there, and was a good player there. There’s pride there within his family. He told me, ‘Coach, I’ve seen them play at least 15 times this year,’ and he wouldn’t be watching any other teams from the Pac-12 play that many times unless there was a vested interest with his father.”
As a kid, Landen would square up against Richard at the gym, but it took until he was a freshman in high school before he finally won against his old man. And just a few years later, Landen began to hear from college coaches, including the staff at Oregon.
"For a while I looked at them, wanted to give them a chance, especially since my dad,” Landen said. “They had a great coaching staff. I enjoyed it. But my decision to come to Kansas was based on how great Kansas was and less about the other schools."
With at least one game left in Landen’s collegiate career, he has yet to beat his dad in one more challenge: game-high rebounds. Richard once pulled down in 18 in a game, a feat that Landen matched against Iowa State _ with a bit of a caveat.
“It went into overtime, so he's not counting that,” Landen said. “I got to get to at least 18 or more so I can shut him up and he won't talk about it anymore."
Even though Richard and Shelley have cheered for their Ducks for at least 30 years, Landen expects their affinity to be put on hold Saturday night.
"He better root for us and be 100 percent for us,” Landen said. “He can go back to Oregon after.