Luckett adjusting to junior college ball, academics at Meridian|[02/01/08]

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 1, 2008

UTICA — Mario Luckett’s move east is paying off in big ways.

In his first season playing basketball at Meridian Community College, the former Warren Central standout has become the Eagles’ second leading scorer and rebounder in just 18 games. But perhaps the biggest plus has been his commitment to school which could mean a ticket to the next level when he’s done in Meridian.

“He’s been doing well and he’s made the adjustments to playing junior college basketball at Meridian,” MCC coach George Brooks said Thursday as his Eagles got a game-high 21 points from Luckett to beat Hinds, 73-68. “If he keeps improving like he’s doing and falls in love with the weight room this summer, he’s got a good chance to move up to a good college program.”

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At Warren Central, Luckett was a two-time All-Warren County pick as a 6-foot, 5-inch center for coach Jesse Johnson’s team. He thrilled Viking fans will his leaping ability which resulted in several highlight-reel dunks. But to play at the next level, Luckett needed to move out to the wing where players his size play.

“Coach Brooks starts me at the four (power forward) and then I worked my way over to the three (small forward). I’m starting to get the feel of it,” Luckett said. “He’s working me toward that position.”

“We like to start him inside because he’s been rebounding well for us. He’s our second leading rebounder at 8 to 9 a game. He’s also become a good scorer right near 12 to 13 a game,” Brooks said.

“Things have been going good here,” Luckett said. “I think getting away has been good for me. When you stay around the same people, that can lead to some bad things. It’s a nice little trip over here, but I’m around good people and I’m really happy.”

It also has gotten Luckett to concentrate on his studies, something he admits he didn’t do enough of at Warren Central.

“I was always focused on playing basketball. But at Meridian, I’ve gotten more into my school work. I’m majoring in business. Right now, I’m taking some easy stuff,” he said.

On the court, Luckett has helped Meridian to a 10-8 overall record and a 4-3 mark in the MACJC South Division.

“We’re third in our division and we want to hold that so we can make the state tournament,” Luckett said. The top four teams from each division advance to the MACJC State Tournament next month.

Luckett’s departure from WC has been widely felt this season as the Vikings have struggled to a 4-22 mark.

“I’ve heard,” Luckett said. “My little brother is playing on that team, and he keeps me informed.”

Luckett, though, is more concerned about improving his game.

“I’ve always felt I had a nice little jump shot. But now I’m trying to improve my ball handling. I believe I’m a team player. The great thing about here is that I’ve got a whole lot more help. We have a lot of good players on this team,” Luckett said.