Kansas forward underwent surgery on left leg at season’s end

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While Kansas forward Landen Lucas didn’t have a starring role on this past season’s team, which won an 11th consecutive Big 12 regular season title, he did manage to earn minutes in the Jayhawks’ front court rotation. Lucas made 14 starts, averaging 3.5 points and 4.3 rebounds in just over 15 minutes of action per game, and he did so while playing at less than 100 percent for most of the season.

While there were multiple issues involving his knee, hip and back, Lucas also had to deal with a leg ailment that wasn’t addressed until shortly after the Jayhawks’ season came to an end in the NCAA tournament. He discussed the matter with Gary Bedore of the Lawrence Journal-World:

“After the season I had surgery done on my left leg. There was a small bone tumor in the shin area they had to take out,” Lucas said, the word “tumor” sounding awfully scary coming out of his mouth. “It was nothing serious. It wasn’t cancerous, but I had it from the start of the season. It’s one of those things that was growing throughout last offseason, and I noticed it around Late Night.

“I think it caused some problems. It did give me some pain. Recovery time is six to eight weeks, so we knew we had to wait until after the season to do anything about it,” Lucas explained.

Lucas is nearly back to full strength, with the hip issue not requiring surgery. And while Lucas may be a player overlooked by some, the summer leading into his junior campaign (which will include KU representing the United States in the World University Games) in an important one.

The Jayhawks return the majority of their front court rotation, with Cliff Alexander being the lone departure, and Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo join the ranks. But as has been the case under Bill Self, arriving in Lawrence as a highly-regarded recruit doesn’t guarantee large amounts of playing time.

That’s where an experienced player like Lucas who understands and embraces his role comes into play. How much playing time Lucas can earn remains to be seen, but there weren’t many who anticipated him making 14 starts before the 2014-15 season began either.

Kansas’ Landen Lucas hopes summer work results in more playing time

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Losing big man Joel Embiid was something Kansas head coach Bill Self and his staff planned for from a recruiting standpoint, with the Jayhawks landing Cliff Alexander and Arkansas transfer Hunter Mickelson eligible after sitting out last season. But there’s room for others to step forward and work to earn more playing time, with Landen Lucas being one players hoping to do just that.

According to Gary Bedore of the Lawrence Journal-World the redshirt sophomore has dropped nine pounds from his 6-foot-10 frame since the end of the season, but the shift in weight isn’t because Lucas felt he was heavyset. Lucas’ stated goal was to decrease his body fat before getting back to the weight he played at, hoping to raise his lean muscle mass in the process.

Lucas will play on an Athletes in Action team next month in Estonia and Latvia, and while those games won’t be played alongside his teammates they will provide solid game experience to a player who averaged just 4.9 minutes per contest in 2013-14.

“It definitely should be a fun time. It’ll be great because I really haven’t had a chance since high school (to play extended minutes),” said Lucas, Kansas University’s third-year sophomore center who is carrying 231 pounds on his 6-foot-10 frame, down nine pounds from his listed weight of 240 last season.

“It’ll be good to get a feel for it and get ready for next year,” added Lucas, who worked as a camp counselor Saturday at former KU staff member Sean Harrington’s Players Camp at New Century Fieldhouse.

Embiid wasn’t the only personnel loss Kansas had to absorb in its front court, with graduate transfer Tarik Black also moving on. But with Ellis leading the way the Jayhawks won’t lack for bodies in the post, because in addition to Alexander, Lucas and Mickelson they also welcome back Jamari Traylor (4.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg). Ellis and Alexander will be the headliners, but it takes more than two interior options to make a run at a national title especially when considering the depth other programs possess.

Within the Big 12 Texas added Myles Turner to its deep front court rotation, Iowa State has Jameel McKay and Giorgos Tsalmpouris to play along side Georges Niang, and programs such as Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma have solid interior options as well. And from a national standpoint multiple (expected) national title contenders have front court depth as well. How much more playing time Lucas earns remains to be seen, but it wouldn’t hurt Kansas to see him take a step forward in 2014-15.