N’Guessan, a 7-foot junior center for East Tennessee State, had transferred from Oklahoma State and was sitting out a year as required by rule. ETSU petitioned the NCAA to have N’Guessan ruled eligible to play this season, and with the cooperation of his former school, the deal was eventually done.
“It feels great to be out on the court, especially because I expected to be on the side all year,” N’Guessan said. “It’s a great opportunity.”
When ETSU coach Steve Forbes petitioned the NCAA, he wasn’t overly optimistic that it would work. When it did, his new 7-footer was ecstatic.
“I didn’t know what to say,” N’Guessan said. “l was super surprised. I’m just excited to go.”
N’Guessan, who grew up in the Netherlands, got his feet wet with some minutes at Illinois. He then started two games in the Sun Bowl tournament in El Paso, Texas, blowout wins over Wyoming and Norfolk State.
“The coach gave me confidence,” he said. “That feels good. It’s nice to be out there.”
After the Illinois debacle, a 73-55 loss in which ETSU’s starting five players combined to score three points, Forbes claimed there were no longer any starters, that every job would have to be re-earned. N’Guessan was inserted into the lineup in place of 6-foot-10 sophomore Mladen Armus. It was one of two moves made by Forbes, who also started freshman point guard Daivien Williamson in place of Isaiah Tisdale.
“I opened up the lineup after the Illinois game,” said Forbes, whose 10-4 team plays host to Furman on Saturday at 4 p.m. “I really think Mladen had a great week of practice. It was not a reflection on him. I just tried to shake it up. They’re both going to play a lot of minutes.”
N’Guessan averaged 5.0 points a game in El Paso. He played only nine minutes against Wyoming before fouling out, perhaps being too anxious to make a difference on defense. That’s the end of the court where the Bucs expect him to make the biggest contribution.
“Lucas gives us more rim protection,” Forbes said. “He has a really good feel how to defend playing at a high level.”
N’Guessan made 17 starts in 54 appearances for Oklahoma State over the past two seasons and shot 67 percent from the field as a freshman to lead the team.
“He’s got really good patience on offense,” Forbes said. “He doesn’t get sped up. He takes his time around the basket. He just gives us a dimension to our team that we didn’t have until a week ago.”