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Cameron Smith

Findlay Prep star still agonizes over decision to leave Oregon

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

It's not unusual for standout high school basketball players to transfer to programs with national attention for their senior seasons. Following the lead of past stars like Michael Beasley -- not to mention more recent sensations like current Texas freshmen Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph -- budding regional stars migrate toward programs like St. Patrick (N.J.) High and Oak Ridge (N.C.) Military Academy in increasing quantity and quality.

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Yet one program may stand out in front of all the others in terms of the sheer number of prospects it has both attracted and churned out in recent years: Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev., a basketball factory of a school geared almost single-mindedly toward creating the next generation of great NCAA and NBA players, with Thompson and Joseph its current shining examples at the collegiate level.

For all the hype surrounding the Findlay program, currently ranked No. 11 in the RivalsHigh 100, one budding star has reached out to his roots, telling longtime fans and admirers in the Portland Oregonian that his adjustment to a higher profile program has been anything but easy, both mentally and emotionally.

"I'm not going to lie. [The decision to transfer to Findlay Prep] weighs on you," Findlay Prep junior Landen Lucas, a former star at Westview (Ore.) Sunset High, told the Oregonian. "I really believe we could have had a chance to win a state championship. But I have to remember that we have a chance to win a national championship at Findlay. It's hard, but you have to look ahead.

"If I had to make the choice again, I would still do it. I wanted a new challenge, to push myself and get prepared to go college a year or two ahead of everyone else. [Findlay players] come out of here and make an immediate impact in college because they're so far ahead of everyone else."

By the time he graduates, Lucas may indeed be far ahead of the college hoops learning curve, but he will have made significant sacrifices to get there. In addition to leaving home, where his entire family and friends remain, the talented junior power forward also departed a program that appeared to be on the verge of a state title run. He left the chance for widespread accolades among a traditional student body for a hyper-focused run in a program constantly under prep basketball's microscope.

While he made those sacrifices willingly, he admitted that he has yet to fully commit to spending his senior year repeating the process he's gone through as a junior, a path that began in frustration but has blossomed into a significant role as Findlay's sixth man.

"Early on, the coaches really didn't get what I could bring to the team," Lucas told the Oregonian. "I'm the sixth man now, but of course I would like to start. It's been hard going from being the man to being a role player, but I've got to keep on looking at the big picture.

"I'm happy here right now and I'm committed. We'll see how things go. We'll sit down with the family and see how things are going this summer. If we felt that it was the best situation to come home, then I would. But as of now, I'm happy with where I'm at."

It's likely that Lucas will stay put, given the additional exposure he's received and development as a player that he's shown at Findlay. Yet that lingering question is a powerful statement of just how hard it is for players to commit themselves completely to a sport while still in school, all at the steep cost of a normal life.

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