Making up for lost time UMBC: Senior guard Ron Lucien didn't play much at the start of the season, but he has come on strong for the Retrievers.

February 25, 1997|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Senior guard Ron Lucien didn't play in four of UMBC's first five games this season. The only time he got off the bench was for two minutes of a blowout loss at Maryland.

So, which Retriever has been the team's most valuable during the past month?

The same player who started out doing more sitting than shooting.

Lucien had reached double figures just once this season, getting 14 points against Division III St. Mary's, until scoring 25 against North Carolina-Greensboro on Jan. 29. He went 9-for-11 from the field in 35 minutes, and added six rebounds, six assists and a steal.

This wasn't a fluke, just someone grabbing an opportunity and squeezing everything out of it.

Since then, the Brooklyn, N.Y., native has totaled 23 points against Bucknell, 24 against Lehigh and a career-high 26 against Charleston Southern, all victories, and is averaging 15.4 over the last nine games going into the Big South Conference tournament in Lynchburg, Va., where UMBC is the bottom seed.

"The biggest thing is confidence," said Lucien, who has started the past four games at shooting guard after being a backup at the point.

"The shots I took in the Greensboro game were shots I had throughout the whole season, but I never took them. I tried to stay within my role, which was being a point guard and distributing the ball, but we were struggling with our shooting, so I began taking those shots and they kept going in."

Though he had started the final 11 games of last season, Lucien knew his playing time would be limited, at least in the beginning, with the arrival of sophomore point guard Rodrick Harrison (Dunbar), who transferred from Catonsville Community College.

"I said to myself, 'I can't lose my head because, as the season progresses, things might change and I have to be prepared when my time comes.' So, I just kept my focus up and concentrated with each practice on trying to get better, knowing my time would come. When it did, I was able to take advantage of it," he said.

"We thought Ron would get some minutes," UMBC coach Tom Sullivan said, "but we didn't know when. But it wasn't a question of not playing him as much as other people playing better than him in the preseason. But the one thing that is so indicative of Ron is, he's a real All-American kid in that he keeps competing, day in and day out. He doesn't lose focus on what he has to do in order to play. He really pays attention to what we're looking for and assimilates that into what he does.

"The system we run yields shots at certain areas of the court at certain positions. What he did was focus in on those shots, and knew when he got them, he would be ready to make them.

"We practice from those positions on the floor on a daily basis. The thing he did was go out there and decide he was going to bang them home."

He has done it with remarkable accuracy in UMBC's five wins, shooting 32-for-49, including 10-for-10 from three-point range.

Such proficiency makes it easy to forget that Lucien, who never had played the point until last season, was cut from the team as a freshman and isn't on scholarship.

"The big thing about Ron is he's totally unspoiled and is totally a self-made player and appreciates the rigors of college athletics," Sullivan said.

Big South tournament

At Vines Center, Lynchburg, Va.

First round

Tomorrow

No. 4 Charleston Southern (14-12, 7-7) vs. No. 5 Coastal Carolina (11-15, 6-8), noon

No. 1 N. Carolina-Asheville (17-9, 11-3) vs. No. 8 UMBC

(5-21, 2-12), 2 p.m.

No. 3 Radford (14-12, 8-6) vs. No. 6 N. Carolina-Greensboro (10-19, 6-8), 6 p.m.

No. 2 Liberty (21-8, 11-3) vs. No. 7 Winthrop (12-14, 5-9), 8 p.m.

Semifinals

Friday

N.C.-Asheville-UMBC winner vs. Charleston Southern-Coastal Carolina, 6 p.m.

Liberty-Winthrop winner vs. Radford-N.C.-Greensboro winner, 8: 30 p.m.

Championship

Saturday

Semifinal winners, noon

Pub Date: 2/25/97

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