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Eric Peterson, Published December 26 2012

MSUM's Tucker shows a knack for the basket

Moorhead - Anthony Tucker showed his deft shooting touch during a preseason workout with a Minnesota State Moorhead assistant coach.

The drill called for Tucker to make as many 3-point shots as he could from five different spots around the arc before he missed two shots in a row from each. The goal was to finish with 100 makes after adding up the totals from each spot.

Tucker didn’t need to leave the first station on the right baseline. The senior drained 110 shots from there before he missed two in a row.

“I just laughed,” said Josh Vaughan, the MSUM men’s basketball assistant who helped Tucker with the drill. “I’ve never seen anyone shoot like that for an extended period of time. You’re not supposed to shoot that many shots in a row at the first spot.”

Tucker has also been on target since the season started. The 6-foot-4 guard leads the Dragons with 19.6 points and 4.9 assists per game through eight games.

Tucker – who has been named Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference player of the week twice – is shooting 51 percent from the field and 46 percent from 3-point range.

“It just makes everything else easy, knowing he can make plays and create plays for other people,” said MSUM sophomore guard Jordan Riewer, who is averaging 12 points per game.

Vaughan, who played for North Dakota State from 2005-2010, said Tucker is one of the best players he’s been associated with. That includes players like Ben Woodside, Andre Smith and Brett Winkelman. They were Vaughan’s teammates at NDSU.

“He’s that good,” Vaughan said. “He’s in that class.”

Tucker started his college career in Division I, playing for the Iowa Hawkeyes. He spent two seasons with the team before leaving the program near the end of his sophomore season. Tucker was suspended for parts of his freshman and sophomore seasons for two alcohol-related incidents.

Tucker then landed in Division II at Winona State, which is also in the NSIC. He averaged 15.9 points in the 2010-11 season with the Warriors, but was suspended before the postseason after an arrest for disorderly conduct. He never returned to the team.

“It’s hard to say when it’s happening to you that it’s a maturity thing,” Tucker said. “But looking back on it, I’m 23 now, that’s absolutely all it was. It was just a maturity thing and a lack of respect for the game.”

Dragons head coach Chad Walthall was an assistant coach at Iowa when Tucker played for the Hawkeyes. That’s why Walthall was willing to give Tucker another chance with MSUM.

Walthall didn’t think Tucker was a bad person, just a kid who made some bad choices.

“Where other coaches thought it might have been high risk, I knew it was low risk,” Walthall said. “I knew his potential. I knew his intelligence. He is going to graduate this spring.”

After his season at Winona State, Tucker said it came down to MSUM and Iowa State. He chose the Dragons because he knew Walthall and his playing system.

Tucker joined the MSUM program last season. He had to sit out the year because of transfer rules.

Walthall said Tucker did everything the team asked in that redshirt season.

“All he did was show up to practice every day and went to work and did what he was supposed to do in the classroom,” Walthall said.

Tucker did individual workouts with Vaughan a few times a week to help improve his game during that redshirt year.

Some of those sessions were as early as 6 a.m., Vaughan said.

“It was always him asking me. He was the one who wanted to get better,” Vaughan said.

“Being up here, it’s kind of been like a 180-degree turn, the fact that I’m older and more mature,” Tucker added. “I’m valuing my opportunity a lot more.”

Tucker – who went to Minnetonka (Minn.) High School – is a sociology major who hopes to be a basketball coach after his playing career.

“It feels good to be back playing and having a little bit of success,” Tucker said. “I will consider it a success story when I graduate from college and have a degree.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com