Korie Lucious shares love of basketball, journey to Iowa State


Photo: Huiling Wu/ Iowa State Daily

Korie Lucious rests after practice on March 5 at Hilton Coliseum before the game against Oklahoma State on March 6. 

Dean Berhow-Goll

15 years ago if you walked into the Milwaukee YMCA, through the front doors and through the gym doors, he or she would find a young basketball player, tough as nails with a handle like a dream, working with his mentor.

Shot after shot, drill after drill, hour after hour and day after day, the young Korie Lucious was working with the father he loves on the game he loves.

It didn’t matter what time of day — as early as 6 a.m. before school or after school when his homework was done — Lucious was in the gym for three to four hours at a time, crafting and fine-tuning his game with his father and teacher, Antone Brazil.

During those countless workouts, it sometimes took Lucious a while to find himself. When he would mess up, his dad would let him know. Lucious has and always will call him his biggest critic, but also his biggest fan.

“Working out with my dad pushing me 100 percent, sometimes it’s like, ‘Man get off my back,'” Lucious said. “At the same time, he wanted to see me succeed; he knew the potential I had.”

Once he did come around, it was exactly what Brazil wanted to see and why he was pushing him so hard.

“I don’t beat around the bush,” Brazil said. “I’ll always tell him like it is.”

In middle school, Lucious was one of the bigger kids in class and considering the size of his dad, uncles and his older brother — all of who are all six feet or taller — the now 5-foot-11 guard thought he was going to be 6-foot-6, or at least taller than he is now.

Lucious played big, too, earning the early status of the best player in Milwaukee in his age group. Soon, he was getting recruited early and persistently by powerhouse Michigan State and coach Tom Izzo.

Although he was pursued by the likes of Florida, Arkansas and Georgetown, the No. 10-ranked point guard in the class of 2008 always had dreamed of donning the emerald and white of a Spartan.

“I didn’t take any visits or think about any other schools,” Lucious said.

Fast forward to Lucious’ sophomore year, when his dream came to fruition. After All-Big Ten point guard Kalin Lucas went down with a torn Achilles tendon in the second round of the NCAA tournament against Maryland, Lucious stepped into shoes he’d been waiting to fill since he first set foot on campus in East Lansing, Mich.

Down 83-82 with only 6.6 seconds left in the game, Michigan State’s Draymond Green dribbled up the middle of the court, passed to his right over a ducking Delvon Roe to Lucious, who took one dribble to his left and hit the game-winning shot that sent his beloved Spartans into the Sweet 16.

“The second half of that Maryland game,” Lucious trailed off, smiling, looking out at Sukup Basketball Complex’s court, as if he were reimagining the buzzer-beater. “After that I was like ‘Yeah, it’s time to go.'”

While he averaged less than five points per game during the regular season coming off the bench, in his starting role the sophomore averaged just under 11 and led his team to the Final Four before losing to national runner-up Butler 52-50.

In his junior year, Lucious’ points as a starter decreased, as did his playing time. Then on January 27, 2011, Izzo suspended Lucious from the team.

Lucious didn’t wish to discuss his departure from his former school, and Michigan State did not respond to several interview requests from the Daily.

“Unfortunately, Korie Lucious displayed conduct detrimental to the program,” Izzo said in a statement issued by the school at the time of the suspension.

Nearly four weeks later Lucious announced he was transferring to Iowa State, but it only took a few hours for a Cyclone to reach out to him — and it wasn’t former Michigan State player Chris Allen, who at the time was sitting out the year after his transfer the year before.

“The day I got kicked off the team, it wasn’t even Chris [Allen]; Diante [Garrett] called me,” Lucious said. “He said, ‘My coach, he’s got a scholarship for you.'”

Lucious saw the transformation Garrett had made under Hoiberg and forecast the same fortune for himself.

Under former coach Greg McDermott, Garrett averaged a pedestrian nine points and five assists. However, in Hoiberg’s NBA-style offense, Garrett nearly doubled his points per game and upped his assists, becoming one of the only players in the entire country to average more than 17 points and six assists.

That was Iowa State’s pitch to Lucious: Come play at Iowa State in as guard-friendly of a system as anyone’s in the country. He bought in immediately.

“Basically they said ‘You’re going to have the ball in your hands,’” Lucious said. “That’s how I wanted to play, and they sold me right there.”

At the beginning of his only season as a Cyclone, Lucious struggled to find his niche while trying to make too many “home run” passes, as Hoiberg put it.

Lucious averaged more than five turnovers in his team’s losses during the early nonconference portion of the schedule, including seven in the loss at Carver-Hawkeye Arena against Iowa on Dec. 7, 2012.

But just as he did in the Milwaukee YMCA all those years ago, Lucious came around — and it was exactly what Cyclone fans wanted to see.

Now, with only three Big 12 games to go before postseason play, Lucious hasn’t had more than four turnovers since Dec. 19, 2012 — 18 games, which is nearly 70 days.

“The big thing Korie has done as the season has gone along is how much safer he is with the ball,” Hoiberg said. “He can do so many things with it that at times, he tried to make the spectacular play instead of making the simple plays, and his assist numbers went up when he really started taking care of the ball.”

As the turnovers went down, the assists went up. Now Lucious has 163 assists for the year, averaging just under six assists per game, flirting with the now-Phoenix Suns’ point guard Garrett’s mark two seasons ago.

Also with only the majority of one season under his belt, Lucious ranks No. 17 on Iowa State’s all-time assists list.

Right now, Iowa State’s floor general is focused on doing what it takes to win — and getting Iowa State to its first back-to-back trips to the NCAA tournament since 2001-2002.

Lucious knows he won’t be in cardinal and gold forever, though. When that time comes, Lucious will try to lengthen his love for basketball, wherever it takes him. The love that first started so many years ago at that YMCA in Milwaukee.

Shot after shot, drill after drill, hour after hour and day after day, the young Korie Lucious was working with the dad he loves on the game he loves.

“Whatever it takes,” Lucious said. “I’m just trying to get paid to do what I love.”