All this week, LGHL writers will be bring you articles with inspired by their favorite Ohio State records. Check out all of our “Broken Records” thoughts throughout the week HERE. Whether you disagree, let us know what you think in the comments below and on Twitter @Landgrant33.
While perusing the Ohio State men’s basketball record books, there was one career record that stood out. During his time in Columbus, Jerry Lucas pulled down 1,411 rebounds for the Buckeyes. Not only is Lucas 300 rebounds ahead of second-place Herb Williams, the center from Middletown did all that work on the boards in just three seasons, as freshmen were ineligible to play varsity college sports at the time.
Obviously basketball at the time when Lucas was at Ohio State was a lot different from what we see today. It still doesn’t take away from the fact that Lucas was an incredible talent that not only led Ohio State to a national championship, but he also went on to become a seven-time NBA All-Star. Lucas was not only named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, he was also elected to the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980.
It feels highly unlikely that we’ll ever see any Buckeye even come close to topping the career rebounding mark that Lucas has set. A lot of the names on Ohio State’s top-10 rebounding list played for the Buckeyes more than 30 years ago. There are only two Buckeyes in the top-10 that played their whole career in Columbus in the last 20 years. Terence Dials ranks fifth in school history with 876 rebounds, while Jae’Sean Tate checks in eighth all-time, grabbing 771 rebounds.
The biggest change these days from what we used to see in college basketball is that you don’t see players stick around to play for three or four years, which used to be the norm, depending on what eligibility rules were at the time. Those that do play three or four years of college basketball often aren’t playing heavy minutes like Lucas or some of the other top rebounders of the past did.
One Buckeye that had a chance at threatening Lucas’ rebounding mark had he stayed four years at Ohio State was Jared Sullinger, who recorded 717 in 74 games. Obviously Sullinger made the correct choice by heading to the NBA after his sophomore season, where he was a first round pick. While Sullinger was on pace to break the all-time Ohio State rebounding mark had he stayed four years, he had played eight less games than Lucas and still had only gotten just a little over halfway to Lucas’ 1,414 rebounds.
I don’t want to turn this into a debate about what era of basketball was better than another, I’m just trying to highlight just how dominant Lucas was while he was a Buckeye. If you put Lucas in college basketball today, he’s likely an E.J. Liddell-type since they are similarly sized, but the rest of the game has grown up a lot in the last 60 years. Players are better shooters, offensive and defensive schemes have become more complex, and referring styles have changed so much over time.
A few more stats can highlight just how dominant Lucas was at Ohio State when it came to rebounding. Lucas has the three highest single-season rebounding totals in school history, with his highest total coming in 1961 with 499 rebounds, and the lowest of his three seasons coming when he grabbed 442 rebounds in 1959. Brad Sellers is the only other Buckeye to crack 400 rebounds in a season, and Jared Sullinger is the only other Ohio State player to reach the top-10 twice, as he has the fifth and sixth highest single-season totals.
While Lucas somehow doesn’t have the highest single-game rebounding total in school history, he does have the next five highest rebounding games for the Buckeyes. Frank Howard set the school single-game mark when he pulled down 32 rebounds a couple years before Lucas was a Buckeye. Lucas recorded 30 rebounds in three different games, as well as adding games of 28 rebounds and 25 rebounds.
Maybe I’m wrong about this and somebody shows up and eclipses the rebounding record that Lucas set, but it seems very unlikely. Just think of what type of career it is going to take to break the record. Say a player equals David Lighty’s school record of 157 games played, they would need to average nine rebounds per game to reach Lucas’ record. By comparison, since 2000 there have 15 seasons in which Ohio State’s leading rebounder averaged less than nine rebounds per game.
Even more incredible was that Lucas was a force on the other end of the court as well. There’s a reason why he can be thought of as one of the best players in school history, and he was at the center of a national title run for the Buckeyes. There was so many impressive things that Lucas did while wearing the scarlet and gray, but his rebounding dominance will likely be a record that is never broken.