‘A long one’ — Te’Jon Lucas’ journey to BYU men’s basketball
Three minutes. That’s how long it took Te’Jon Lucas to receive his first phone call once his name was entered into the transfer portal. That phone call came from BYU assistant coach Cody Fueger.
The 6-foot-1 senior point guard describes his college basketball journey as “a long one.” In 2016, Lucas began his college career at Illinois. He started in 34 of 60 games over two years with the Fighting Illini. After a new coach was brought in, along with a new playing style, Lucas sought a change.
The Wisconsin native traveled back home to play for Milwaukee. After sitting out a redshirt year in 2018-19, Lucas earned All-Horizon league honors in both 2020 and 2021, averaging 14.7 points and 5.4 assists over the two years. Despite the individual success, one thing was still missing from his resume: a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
BYU was the first to contact Lucas, but it was not an easy decision for the grad transfer. Lucas had never been to Utah and knew of the Cougars primarily because of BYU legend Jimmer Fredette. Lucas was aware of their ability to win, however.
When he spoke on the phone with BYU head coach Mark Pope for the first time, it didn’t take long for Lucas to learn what Pope was all about. “The first two minutes with me and Coach Pope on the phone, he’s like, ‘hey, you can’t have the ball in your hands all the time.’”
Having been through the recruiting process three times, Lucas knew that some coaches will tell you what you want to hear. Pope took the honesty approach, telling Lucas that if he came to BYU he would have the opportunity to build something special with his teammates. Part of that something special is the chance to make an NCAA Tournament run.
When he heard Pope’s honesty and emphasis on family, Lucas decided he would make the 1,455-mile journey to Provo.
Upon Lucas’ arrival in Provo, he was welcomed with open arms by backcourt partner Alex Barcello. The veteran duo of Barcello and Lucas has been a saving grace for BYU, but it almost never came to be.
“We were basically recruiting each other to come back here,” Lucas said, knowing that BYU could accomplish something special if the two teamed up.
It is no coincidence that Barcello announced his return for a third year in Provo just nine days after Lucas committed to the Cougars.
The two said they talk every day and hang out a couple of times a week, whether it’s kicking it at Barcello’s house or going out to eat, but their biggest similarity comes on the court.
“It’s just fun playing with a guy that wants to win as bad as you do,” Barcello said, smiling.
The two “old heads,” as they like to call themselves, are both in the middle of their fifth and final year of college hoops, and Pope doesn’t take that for granted. “It is an unbelievable gift to have two veteran guys like that in the backcourt.”
Lucas knows they slipped up in a couple of non-conference games but despite those three losses, he is impressed with how the team has battled through injuries and illnesses to figure out how to win. Ultimately, winning is why he is here.
It won’t be easy to win going forward. The Cougars lost their two starting centers Richard Harward and Gavin Baxter to season-ending injuries and the West Coast Conference is arguably the best it has ever been.
In a year where BYU needs veteran leaders more than ever, it is hard to ask for more than the duo of Lucas and Barcello.
The bottom line is, Lucas is here to win. He has his sights set on a conference championship and a long run in the NCAA Tournament; but as a humble veteran like Lucas knows, it starts with winning one day at a time.