Lucas Elliott was just 11 months old when his dad, Noel Elliott, famously carried the Olympic Torch through Reid Park as part of the torch’s 13,500-mile trek to the Olympic opening ceremonies in Salt Lake City that year. The year was 2002 and the City of Tucson afforded him the honor of carrying the torch as a way to say, “thanks” for the sacrifice he made to one of our favorites sons, his younger brother, Sean Elliott.
Noel donated a kidney to Sean in 1999 and Sean Elliott became the first player in NBA history to return to the court after receiving an organ transplant. But, while Sean and Noel were hometown heroes, to Lucas, Sean was just an uncle. As it should be.
“My uncle tried to get me to try it (basketball) but I pushed it away,” Lucas explained about his early relationship with Sean Elliott. “I didn’t see him as a former NBA player, I saw him as an uncle. But now, having him give me advice helps me out a lot.”
It also helps to have a mom, Kathy Van Diepen Elliott, who is 6-foot-3 and a former standout Iowa high school player (averaging almost 30 points a game) who went on to play for Nebraska Omaha (1985-89). Oh, and she still holds the Omaha record for field goal percentage (.526) and is in the record book for numerous block shot statistics.
“My uncle saw me play when I was in the 7th grade. He calls my dad to see how I’m doing and he was really excited when he saw how tall I was. He said it was in the NBA range.”
— Lucas Elliott, nephew of the greatest Arizona player, Sean Elliott
It also helps to have a father who played at Cholla with his brother Sean. Though not as accomplished on the court as his younger brother, Noel was still part of Tucson hoops history. “He was first off the bench my senior year while I was somewhere back on the bench,” Noel joked. “I was injured my freshman and sophomore years and Sean convinced me to play my senior year.”
With a mom standing 6-3 and a dad pushing 6-5, it was obvious there was going to be some growing in the Elliott household.
“There was never a growth spurt,” Kathy explained. “He was always at the top of the height and weight charts. He just continued to grow.”
“We knew early on he was an athletic kid,” Noel added. “We had him in soccer, football, T-Ball, coaches pitch. We were always hoping he’d choose basketball.”
“Yes, we wanted him to play because it’s a fun and natural outlet but it wasn’t til the eighth grade when we saw him wanting to play and explore it some more,” Kathy added.
“My parents made me try it and I didn’t like it as much in the seventh grade,” Lucas explained. “But in the 8th grade I got a little spark and I wanted to do it by the end of 8th grade. I wanted to go further and expand on my basketball knowledge.”
“You can’t coach size,” Is what his club and high school coach David Thomas offered.
Lucas will be a sophomore at Pusch Ridge and I was one of the first to recognize him as a freshman while covering one of his games. He was towering over his opponents and he looked familiar. It was Sean Elliott as a young boy.
Thomas coaches Lucas on the AZ Power Black 15U club team as well as on the Pusch Ridge squad. Lucas only scored 18 points his freshman year but expect that to change this year. He has grown into his size and he has collected some of the basketball knowledge he was seeking. Still, everyone thought he was “only” 6-7. The University of Arizona corrected them.
Sitting on the bench helping Thomas coach at Pusch Ridge is none other than legendary Ohio high school Hall of Fame coach Jim Reynolds. His son, Ryan Reynolds, is the Director of basketball Operations at Arizona. Thomas also works with Sean Miller’s son Cameron.
“I have a previous relationship with Miller so I was able to take Lucas to Arizona this past week,” Thomas explained. “They wanted to see if he was really 6-7. They measured him and he was 6-8 with a wing span of 7-1.
“I don’t know how they know these things but they seem to think he will reach 6-10,” Thomas added.
“My uncle saw me play when I was in the 7th grade,” Lucas said. “He calls my dad to see how I’m doing and he was really excited when he saw how tall I was. He said it was in the NBA range.”
Thomas is already fielding phone calls from the WAC, Big Sky and other Pac 12 schools so there is no turning back now.
“Lucas is an excellent student,” Noel added. “He works really hard in school and we are seeing it reflect in his game. He’s a hard worker.”
The top grades will open even more doors for the Pusch Ridge sophomore. And, he has two younger (and tall) sisters at home. They like volleyball and basketball. We shall see what the future brings.
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Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here, on AZPreps365.com and on the pages of the Vail Voice and the Tanque Verde Voice. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com