When former Florida State security guard Luke Loucks was an intern in film and player development with the Golden State Warriors, he was sometimes given the unenviable job of guarding Kevin Durant’s practice.
Loucks, who described himself as a slow, undersized point guard when he arrived in Tallahassee in 2009, was never able to support Durant optimally in many 1-on-1 fights.
But lately Loucks has been trained on the court by the former NBA MVP to beat his team off the bench as coach.
Loucks, a player development coach for the Nigerian national team, watched the underdog squad he helped put together grab one of the biggest surprises in recent years in international competition when they beat a Durant-led team USA earlier this month in an exhibition game .
Since helping FSU win its only ACC tournament title in 2012, Loucks has had an eventful nine-year journey that took him across Europe, to the NBA during the Golden State Warriors dynasty and now to the Olympics in Tokyo, where Loucks will train. Team Nigeria, which will play their first game against Australia on Sunday evening.
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“He has an amazing personality that allows him to give people information and people want to learn from him,” said longtime Florida State assistant coach Stan Jones, the Tallahassee Democrat. “It is not surprising that he trains and climbs up the ranks quickly. Just like in college, he always found a way to make himself valuable. “
Nowadays Loucks is a player development coach in the USA for the Golden State Warriors and was part of the last two championship teams in 2017 and 2018.
Since his college days Loucks continued to play basketball and went from Latvia via Cyprus to Belgium to Germany with short stops in the development league of the NBA.
On his way he absorbed every experience.
But none was as surreal as what happened before Nigeria’s great victory in Las Vegas.
Loucks faced his boss, Warriors coach Steve Kerr, as well as other NBA championship coaches like Gregg Popovich and Erik Spoelstra when the national anthems were to be played.
The majority of Team Nigeria’s coaching staff, including head coach and NBA veteran Mike Brown, are American. But instead of shouting the words “O Say, Can you see”, Loucks sang the Nigerian national anthem with his coaching colleagues and players.
“Most of our staff played against our home country,” said Loucks. “At every team meeting, Mike had one of the young players on our team lead the whole group to sing the anthem, which is really cool for us because shooting, I don’t know the Nigerian national anthem, but it is played before each of our games (in Tokyo).
And so we get there and it comes in and all of our staff, bunch of American guys, start singing it.
Nigeria ranks 22nd in the current international FIBA men’s basketball ranking and will compete in a group that includes number 10 in Italy and number 17 in Germany. But in the show round, Nigeria defeated top ranked team USA and No. 4 Argentina before losing to No. 3 Australia.
Nigeria hopes with a roster that includes eight NBA players – Josh Okogie, Gabe Vincent, KZ Okpala, Jahlil Okafor, Precious Achiuwa, Chimezie Metu, Miye Oni and Jordan Nwora, who now that the Milwaukee Bucks have finished their NBA championship run at Tuesday evening.
Loucks said one of the biggest challenges is building the chemistry between a group of players who haven’t played together in months or even years, like squads like Spain and Argentina, which Nigeria also defeated in the exhibition round.
The 90-87 win over Team USA was a huge confidence boost for Nigeria about what they could possibly achieve in Tokyo. Nigeria shot 20-out-42 from 3-point range, beating US 33-27. It was the first time an African nation had defeated the US in men’s basketball.
“The boys went nuts in the locker room,” said Loucks.
“We started playing and thought, oh, shoot, that’s pretty good,” said Loucks. “Our defense is really good, we knew we were athletic and we knew we could fly around, but that could be special. Offensive, the most important principles we gave them were to split the ball. And when you have an open shot, I don’t care who you are, you will shoot him. “
But Loucks has always valued defense in every place he’s trained – something he learned from playing for longtime FSU coach Leonard Hamilton.
“If you play for me you will be on your guard,” said Loucks, referring to Hamilton’s constant message to his players. “I learned that from day one. And it’s something I will always have wherever I train, no matter what kind of athlete I have. This is why Florida State is always so difficult to play because they bring a certain amount of intensity even when they are not taking shots. “
Louck’s career highlight was taking the FSU to the conference title and scoring 13 assists in the championship game of that tournament. On the side, his skill on the pitch and his ability to develop strategies like a coach on the pitch made him invaluable to the FSU coaching staff.
“He’s always been incredibly bright, I mean, he got two degrees here in four years,” said Jones. “He was never someone who lacked knowledge. He would play whatever role he had to do to find his way to the ground.
“He was the kind of guy who came up with an idea about play calls at the end of his sophomore year and had to walk in a different direction before the coaches called it out. It is a great advantage for a trainer because you get a point guard who simply thinks for yourself and can see different points of view than the trainer. “
After college, Loucks went overseas in Europe.
He split his first season in the city of Riga in Latvia and later in Cyprus. From there Loucks went to Belgium outside of Brussels.
Loucks would be given the opportunity to return to the United States to play and sign with the Boston Celtics’ development division team and later with the Orlando Magic minor division squad. However, Loucks didn’t get the call to the NBA and returned to Europe to play another season in Germany before back surgery ended his career in 2016.
Then he decided to become a full-time trainer.
Loucks’ father coached high school football and thought that one day after his playing days were over, he would take the step into coaching.
“I had conversations with (Stan) Jones and Coach Ham all the time at FSU and they said to me, ‘You’re going to be a great coach one day,'” said Loucks. “It used to make me a little angry because I wanted to play and wanted to go to the pros. But I was always realistic. I knew with my body and my athleticism that I had decent skills and I felt pretty smart on the floor, but I knew that I would never get into the NBA, even if it was a dream. “
Loucks did the next best.
He took a paid internship in video player development with the Warriors.
Loucks did so for a season before taking on a new role coaching the Warriors two-way players on their G-League roster in Santa Cruz, California for the next two years.
Loucks’ first season coincided with Durant’s first season with Golden State and was the first of consecutive NBA championships and the second of three the Warriors won in a span of four seasons from 2015 to 2018.
“I didn’t really know what to do after playing,” said Loucks. “I knew I still wanted to be in basketball. I assumed it was in coaching, but I was open to work in the front office or scouting. I just knew that I wanted to be at the game. It exceeded all of my expectations in the first season. It was the luck of the draw that I could join one of the best teams in basketball history and be part of it, be part of the culture and learn from a great team.
“It was the absolutely perfect storm … the best place I could have landed.”
accept the challenge
Loucks was hesitant at first when Brown offered him a position as assistant coach on the Nigerian staff last year. But Loucks said he was convinced when Brown decided to coach the team, and he learned more about the potential roster they would have for Tokyo.
“They have a lot of talent for being a place where we can potentially be pretty good and actually turn this thing into something pretty powerful,” Loucks said.
Loucks doesn’t want to speculate on what that experience with Team Nigeria will mean for his career in the NBA, but said that he has learned that he will take every opportunity possible, which continues to open doors for him.
Over the years Loucks realized that coaching was what he was meant to be.
“I want to enjoy the experience and rebuild relationships and compete and try to win as many games as possible,” said Loucks. “In the back of my mind, I knew that I probably always prepared myself for what I do now.”
Dive: USA – Katrina Young – Women’s 10M Platform; John Proctor – Team USA coach
Swim: Finland – Ida Hulkko – 100m breaststroke for women; Bosnia and Herzegovina – Emir Muratovic – men 50m free & 100m free, Honduras – Julio Horrego – 100m chest & 200m chest; Bahamas – Izaak Bastian – 100m chest & 200m chest
Beach volleyball: USA – Nick Lucena; Jason Lochhead – Team USA coach
Soccer: USA – Casey (short) Kruger; Canada – Gabby Carle
Soft ball: Canada – Kaleigh Rafter; Lonni Alameda – Canada pitching coach
Athletics: Great Britain – Zak Seddon; Jamaica – Kimmy Williams; Australian – Linden Hall; Hungary – Istvan Szogi; Bahamas – Alonzo Russell; Belgium – Kevin Borlee, Jonathan Borlee, Anne Zagre; Netherlands – Susan Krumins; Ireland – Andrew Coscoran; Cayman Island – Kemar Hyman
Women’s basketball: Spain – Leonor Rodrgiuez and Maria Conde
Ladies golf: Matilda Castren – Finland
Men’s basketball: Luke Loucks – Assistant Coach, Nigeria
Reach Andre Fernandez at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @FernandezAndreC.
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