Photo courtesy of Butler University Athletics
By David Cordova
It’s the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City on a Wednesday night and the Butler Bulldogs are being routed by the Providence Friars. As a team, they’re shooting a dismal 33.3% from three-point range and struggling to make baskets. But aside from Aaron Thompson, who is having a perfect shooting night, there is one other player on the Bulldogs that is shining under the bright lights on the floor of the self-proclaimed, “World’s Most Famous Arena.”
On this night, Jordan Tucker led Butler with 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting in the Bulldogs’ 80-53 loss in the first round of the Big East Tournament. However, the sophomore forward knows that this is just another game to learn from. After half a year of basically not playing, he’s finally getting a chance to show what he can do.
The 6-foot-7 forward is known for his rebounding prowess and also for his versatility, which includes his shooting, which he is best known for. Every time he is left open on the three-point line, he is liable to destroy a team with his shooting.
When asked what motivates him to be successful on the court, he replied, “Just the reward and everything my dad has put me in position to do by giving me tools, he’s opened doors for me to be successful, put me in front of the right people and everything. I owe it to him to give it everything I got.”
Tucker hails from White Plains, New York, which is a part of the New York City suburbs Westchester County. When people think of the basketball culture in New York, they think of the five boroughs in the city. However, there’s also plenty of talent out there as well.
“A lot of pros came out of Westchester, you know,” explains Tucker about the basketball culture in Westchester County, “A lot of good college players. So we owe it to the people that came before us to give it all that we’ve got now and keep it moving.”
As a high school freshman at White Plains High School, he averaged nearly 14 points per game for the Tigers and was rated amongst as top-25 player in the Class of 2017 nationally by ESPN. As a sophomore, he transferred to Archbishop Stepinac High School, also in White Plains, and challenged himself against better competition on a nightly basis in the Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA), which is one of the best high school leagues in the country. In his first season at Stepinac, he averaged 15.6 points per game. The following season, as a junior, he averaged 17.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game for the Crusaders.
When asked about the experience of playing in his town, he replied, “It was good, it was two different forms of competition. White Plains is in Section 1 and Stepinac is in the CHSAA, so it’s two different types of competition. I know I had that confidence in playing well my freshman year, so I felt that I could compete in a bigger conference.”
As a senior, Tucker moved to Georgia and would end up transferring to Wheeler High School, a school with one of the state’s best basketball teams, located in Marietta, Georgia, a city that is 25 minutes away from Atlanta and is also the alma mater of former NBA All-Star Shareef Abdur-Rahim and current players such as J.J. Hickson (Portland Trail Blazers) and Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics). In his lone season for the Wildcats, he was a part of a squad that finished eighth in the state and compiled a 22-6 record.
“I wanted to play a national schedule, that was basically the biggest reason [for going there]. Playing at Stepinac, you can only play against so many people. [In New York], we had Isaiah Washington and Sid Wilson and guys like that. But going down to Georgia and playing a national schedule, I just wanted to be out in front of more people,” he replied about his reason for attending Wheeler.
By the end of his high school career, he was a top-40 prospect in his class and had garnered plenty of Division I offers from many major schools. But in May 2017, he decided to commit to Duke University, spurning offers from schools such as Syracuse and Georgia Tech.
But his experience at Duke would be short-lived, as things didn’t turn out as planned, with Tucker not gaining much playing time for the Blue Devils. After playing only two games for the Blue Devils during the non-conference portion of his freshman season, he decided to transfer on New Year’s Eve.
When asked what advice he would give prospective players when it came to making commitments to schools, he replied, “Go pick a school where they’ll let you be you, and be able to flourish and play right away, and things like that. And be able to let you grow through your mistakes on & off the court, you know?”
Just a few weeks later, after taking visits to a couple of colleges, he decided on Butler University. When asked what made him choose the Bulldogs, he replied, “That’s a good question. You know, I only had a few weeks to make a decision. I went to three different schools, my visit here was great, I came for the Marquette game, and I was trying to visualize where I could fit as far as playing there, so it made the most sense.”
This season, he has fit in well with his teammates after becoming eligible in December and has been the team’s best shooter from long range, and averaged 9.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game and was the third-leading scorer as a sophomore for Butler alongside seniors such as Paul Jorgensen and Kamar Baldwin.
When asked about the experience of playing in the Big East Conference and Madison Square Garden, he replied, “It’s cool, it’s a tough conference, people would say that it’s fallen off, but I think we could still compete with everybody else.”
With half of a season under his belt, Tucker plans to continue to improve on more assets of his game. And unlike the experience at his previous school, he’s enjoying being on the court, and is finally getting the chance to excel and do what he does best. With two more seasons to go, there is more magic for him to pull off.
When asked what’s next for him, he replied, “Get ready for next season. We have a lot to capitalize on and learn from, we have a young team, and we have everybody coming back, so we’ll be here next year.”
In the case of Jordan Tucker, time is on his side.
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