After being forced to sit out of all but four games last season with a right foot injury, sophomore forward Alando Tucker made a return to the Wisconsin lineup during the Badgers’ season-opening exhibition win over UW-Parkside.
Wisconsin’s athletic swing man showed few signs of rust in his season debut, scoring a team-high 14 points and pulling down 10 rebounds in just 19 minutes of playing time.
“The main thing was just trying to get the timing back,” Tucker said. “I was trying to get my timing back, playing with different guys, different matchups out there on the court.”
During his four games of action last season, Tucker averaged 14 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. His strongest performance came against Ohio, scoring a season-high 22 points on 8-13 shooting. His comeback appeared to be coming full circle. But, unfortunately for Tucker, he re-injured his foot late in the game and was sidelined for the remainder of the year.
Following the season, he applied for and received a medical redshirt.
Despite not seeing any actual game action for nearly 11 months, Tucker showed few signs of lingering effects from the injury or his time off against UW-Parkside.
“At times I think I rushed a couple shots,” Tucker said. “But as time went on, I slowed the game down, and I actually got to read the lanes and different things. I got a lot of the rust out early in practice and during the (inter-squad) game last Sunday, so this game was pretty much just having to read the defense and offense.”
UW-Parkside head coach Luke Reigel opted to give Rangers guard Gareth Malkowski the defensive assignment on Tucker. Utilizing a 25-pound weight advantage and overpowering athleticism, Tucker exploited the smaller Malkowki on the interior, as he scored each of his six field goals in the paint and got to the free-throw line four times.
“Very rarely do you see athletes like that,” Reigel said. “I actually thought we did a pretty good job on him. He had 14 points and 10 boards. He was our biggest concern, because we were starting a 6-foot-5, 180-pound guard on him. I thought Gareth Malkowski did a nice job on him for the most part, but you can see (what happens) when he operates in space … When he has some room to operate, he’ll be real dynamic on the boards and slashing to the basket. But I thought 14 and 10, we actually did a pretty good job on him. We can only do so much against an athlete of his caliber.”
After being without the services of Tucker for a majority of last season, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan was pleased to see his athletic swing man back on floor.
“He gets 10 rebounds. You don’t do backflips, but you say in 19 minutes, that’s not bad,” Ryan said. “He made some shots, got to the free-throw line; he needs to shoot that better. But he played, and that’s exciting. It’s nice to see him out there.”
One of the components arguably missing from UW’s roster last season was a consistent scorer and rebounder to compliment forward Mike Wilkinson in Wisconsin’s starting frontcourt.
With the return of Tucker, Wilkinson’s senior leadership and a host of interior players that can step up off the bench, Wisconsin is setting up to have one of the deepest and most talented front lines in the Big Ten.