Jerry Lucas has known about Luke Kennard for quite some time.
So when the Basketball Hall of Famer and Middletown legend happened to be in the area last weekend, a lunch was arranged between him and the reigning Ohio Mr. Basketball on Monday at Applebee's in Springboro.
Longtime Middletown friend Woody Withrow, Franklin basketball coach Brian Bales and his father, Tim, along with Luke and his father, Mark, attended the lunch with Lucas.
Lucas told The Enquirer it was was mainly a lunch of general conversation among those in attendance, which drew the attention of restaurant employees. Lucas always orders a salad, according to Withrow.
"(Withrow) has told me about Luke for a couple of years," said Lucas, named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history in 1996. "I have heard of him and understand he is a great player and has a great future."
Lucas, 74, relayed memories of playing in Middletown as a youngster and took a lot of questions from the group. In 2013, Middletown dedicated Jerry Lucas Court in a ceremony at Wade E. Miller Gymnasium.
Lucas was an All-American, national and Ohio player of the year at Middletown when the Middies had a 76-game winning streak during his high school career. Middletown won two state titles (1956 and 1957) during his time there.
Lucas, who lives in California, does several speaking engagements and stays at Withrow's Middletown residence when he is within 50-60 miles of the area. Withrow is a longtime Middletown supporter who has done work inside the Franklin High School locker rooms.
"Woody and I thought it would be neat to get Luke and Jerry together," Brian Bales said.
Brian said in some ways even though Lucas and Kennard are eras apart, there are similarities in the work ethic and the early high school success for each player. "I think Luke can relate," Bales said.
Luke, also the reigning Gatorade Ohio player of the year as a junior, averaged 40 points, 10.4 rebounds, four assists and two steals last season at Franklin. He verbally committed to Duke in March.
Luke won a gold medal in June with the USA Basketball Under-18 national team. Adding to his height this summer to be listed at 6 feet 6, Luke is scheduled to be in Chicago next week for the Nike Global Challenge at Whitney Young High School.
Mark Kennard said it was neat Monday to hear about the successful journey of Lucas especially considering the proximity of Middletown and Franklin.
Lucas, who earned college player of the year honors twice at Ohio State and was a three-time All-American with the Buckeyes, told stories of how he would shoot 5,000 shots a day and also try to pinpoint his accuracy by predicting where the ball would land for a rebound.
Lucas would have a clock around the rim in his mind and would shoot 100 times - nicking the 2 o'clock, then 3 o'clock and so on.
'Let's not just make it – let's hit certain spots on the rim,' Lucas told the group. "I think Luke thought that was neat," Brian Bales said.
There were also stories of playing with Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlin which Lucas recalled to the group. In three years, Lucas led the Buckeyes to a 78-6 record which included a national title in 1960. He played 11 years in the NBA and was also a U.S. Olympic gold medalist (1960) and NBA champion (Knicks, 1973).
"It was an honor for all of us to learn to and to hear all of his stories," Bales said.