Ron Kremer of the Joliet Herald-News weighs in on the other area-bred player that was drafted in the first round last week...
Here he goes again.
Alando Tucker is heading down a familiar path. The former Lockport High School and University of Wisconsin basketball standout now must prove he's got NBA game.
Tucker, the young man who once answered his cell phone to the ring of "The People's Court" theme song, played at Lockport during a time when rival Joliet Township ruled the area roost. Judged as something of a 'tweener', he was recruited lightly. He wanted to go to Illinois. He ended up at Wisconsin.
He spent five glorious years in Madison, counting one lost to a foot injury. He bounced back from a medical redshirt season in 2003-04 to earn Big Ten Player of the Year honors as a fifth-year senior. Tucker averaged 19.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 2006-2007.
He led the Badgers to a school-record 17 straight victories and their first taste of No. 1 in The Associated Press poll. His 2,217 career points smashed the all-time Wisconsin scoring record once held by Michael Finley.
Tucker won the Lowe's Senior CLASS award. And he was featured -- along with 7-footer Brian Butch -- on the cover of Sports Illustrated .
Still, when it came time for experts to present their mock NBA drafts, Tucker's name often was omitted from first-round discussions. Many analysts raised the same question that has dogged Tucker for years. At 6-6 and 205 pounds, where would he play? He was deemed too small to fit the "small forward" category in the NBA. And, because Tucker's shooting skills remain a source of concern, he was not rated above many of the top guard prospects.
I was not surprised when the Phoenix Suns went against conventional wisdom on draft day. The Suns, unable to make a deal for T-Wolves star Kevin Garnett and unwilling to otherwise move up, took a chance on Tucker with the 29th pick in the first round. My hunch is Tucker will reward them for that gamble, just as he has rewarded so many others who have given him a chance to show what he's all about.
I base that hunch on what I know of Tucker. I have followed his career and his development since he was a teenager. I always have been impressed by his determination to make something of himself -- and not just on the basketball court. He has talked about returning to his old Fairmont neighborhood and building a sports complex for the next generation of dreamers to call their own.
I think Tucker's best days are ahead. I see him as perfectly suited for the style of play in the Western Conference. He has the athleticism to shine in the open court. At Wisconsin, he was required to play within a system. He learned from coach Bo Ryan the importance of defense. In Phoenix, Tucker will be given a green light at the other end. He can create shots against anyone.
Ron Kremer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org