"It's been a great experience," said Lucas, who underwent knee surgery in the spring and is rehabilitating at his home in Memphis, Tenn. He acknowledged that the injury has led him to lament leaving Maryland 19 credits short of his degree in family studies.
Lucas' classmates who played with him during his four years at College Park left school to play professionally. Duane Simpkins spent two years in Europe before returning home to pursue a career in broadcasting. He works for an Internet company. Exree Hipp played in Brazil for two years before joining the Harlem Globetrotters last year. Johnny Rhodes is also with the Globetrotters, after playing briefly in Taiwan.
"They say, `Coach, I'm going to make $100,000 playing overseas.' What are you going to say?" asked Maryland coach Gary Williams. "Some kids are going to be successful without their degrees, others need a degree. It's a national problem; it's not just a state of Maryland problem. Once a kid's eligibility is up, he's out of your control."
Ralph Blalock says he left Towson University to play professionally about one semester shy of his degree. He plays for the Newcastle Eagles in England.
"I didn't take advantage of everything I needed to," Blalock said of his college years. "They tried to get me to graduate. I went off and did my own thing."
Many players recalled the difficulty of trying to balance college basketball and classwork.
"People fail to realize how much pressure there is on college players at big-time programs," said Simpkins, who played for the Terrapins after graduating from De- Matha High with a B average and an SAT score of nearly 1000. "It got bigger than we even thought it would."
Neither Hipp nor Rhodes could be reached to comment, but Hipp's mother made it clear that she wasn't happy with the experience her son had at Maryland -- on or off the court.
"I'll give Maryland credit for one thing," said Hipp's mother, Albertha. "They introduced him to the real world."
Lucy Rhodes doesn't harbor any animosity. Her son came to Maryland as a marginal student and wound up making the honor roll his senior year. But he, too, fell short of getting his degree.
"Basically, I can't think of anything they [Maryland] didn't do that they promised," she said.
But Claire Swinson, mother of UMES player Corey Snowden, was not pleased with her son's time at that school.
"He would call me and say, `I can't do this,' " said Swinson, of Franklin Park, N.J. " `I'm not encouraged to study. I'm not encouraged to go to class. I'm only encouraged to put the ball in the hoop.' His whole outlook about school and about basketball, it was like this huge wet blanket went over it."
Snowden faced one of the major stumbling blocks for these students -- a change in coaches.
Recruited by interim coach Bob Wilkerson, Snowden arrived in Princess Anne a stranger to coach Rob Chavez, the first white coach at that historically black college. They never hit it off, Snowden said.
In January 1994, midway through his sophomore year, Snowden said Chavez essentially asked him to leave.
Chavez said: "All I know is that when I talked to Corey he knew it was going to be very difficult for him to play much in our basketball program. If he wanted an opportunity to play, it was probably going to be someplace else."
A few community college classes later, Snowden said he is not closer to earning a degree. He has worked odd jobs in Edison, N.J., and runs the shipping department of a photo company.
Jim Meil, a Towson assistant in 1992 who is at Wagner College, said that when colleges change coaches, players can get lost in the shuffle.
"Kids build a relationship with coaches," Meil said. "One of the major reasons you choose a school is the coach, and change there does impact a kid tremendously. You would like to think a kid's interest in getting a degree supersedes that. Sometimes it doesn't."
A coaching change was also behind Scott's decision to leave UMBC. He played for two years and was academically ineligible his third.
"By the time I was bringing my grades back up, the coach that recruited me had gotten fired," Scott said. "Apparently the administration forgot to tell the new coach about me."
UMBC officials say that it wasn't working out for Scott academically or athletically, so they helped him transfer to a school nearer his home in Florida.
"I think it was clear that he would be better off closer to home," athletics Director Charles Brown said. Scott transferred to Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Fla., and graduated in 1998. He said he works as a counselor in a juvenile home.
Though he had academic problems, Scott does not complain about the help he received at UMBC, where his favorite professor was a remedial reading instructor. "They treated me fairly," he said.