Last season, the Wisconsin Badgers soared to the top of the Big Ten conference behind the play of two superb freshmen, Mike Wilkinson and Devin Harris. Both had distinct physical attributes that placed them in their respective positions. Wilkinson was a forward and Harris was a guard. Both fit their molds exceptionally well.
On the contrary to these molds, Alando Tucker is a “tweener,” standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing under 200 lbs.
“I consider myself a guard who plays in the lane,” Tucker said. “I’m whatever coach plays me at right now, but I’ve always thought of myself as a guard. No matter how tall you get, I think everyone wants to be a guard.”
In his preseason debut as a Badger, Tucker showed a lot of tenacity and potential, tying for the team lead with 14 points and recording 8 rebounds. Coach Bo Ryan praised the freshmen, but realizes that this sort of production cannot be guaranteed from game to game.
“He’s going to have some nights against some certain match-ups where he can show that spark,” Ryan said. “[Tucker] had presence. He plays with a confidence that showed. I was pleased with his effort. He’s got some things to work on like the rest of them, but we’ll take what he gave us tonight because he was active.”
In short, Tucker played big for his middle-sized frame. He proved to be a force on the boards, and made plays on the floor, giving up his body, to key the Badgers second half rally against the EA Sports All-Stars.
“I like to think people play big because of their heart, because of their passion,” Ryan said. “[Tucker] can jump a little bit, there’s strength there, he showed he had a nose for the ball. But, you know how freshmen get some of the time; it’s feast and famine.”
While Tucker seemed excited with his performance Wednesday night, he understands he can’t let just one nights work get to his head.
“Coming into it, you just want to play hard,” Tucker said. “Every game you have to play hard. But you can’t get too excited after one game.”
Down the line, an “in-between” player like Tucker could prove to be quite a commodity. By being able to play both guard and forward, Tucker can be used to create matchup problems for opposing defenses. While playing big for his size, the Badgers can afford to keep a smaller lineup out on the floor that uses their quickness and speed to push the ball.
Like Coach Ryan, Tucker gives credit to his ability to play big to his mentality and the work he has put in the off-season between Lockport High School in Illinois and his work with the Badger basketball squad.
“It’s all about having heart,” Tucker said. “That’s what coach Ryan tries to install in us. Play hard, work hard in the weight room … when you work hard in the weight room it will show up on the court when you play against those [taller] guys.”
Tucker flashed some of that astonishing leaping ability at the end of the game when he ran in front of the pack on a fast break, catching a hard pass form fellow freshmen Boo Wade, and throwing down a strong slam dunk as the All-Stars came trailing in to disrupt his assent to the hoop.
Tucker’s debut proved to be a very solid one, while all five true freshmen saw playing time against the EA Sports All-Stars, meaning none of the 2002 recruiting class will be redshirted.
“None of the guys wanted to [redshirt],” Ryan said. “It was up to them. They all wanted to play.”
With five true freshmen in the mix, Bo Ryan and company seek contributions from the freshmen to provide depth and the versatility that Tucker showed in his debut to be competitive early in the season.
“For us to be successful, the freshmen have to step up,” Mike Wilkinson said. “That’s a big key to every team.”