(Hello, and welcome to “Know Your Rotation Guys.” It’s a hybrid offspring of our previous series “Know Your Benchwarmers,” which can be found here. No further explanation needed, I imagine.)
I kind of think about Cliff Tucker as the invisible man in the Terps’ rotation. I also like to refer to him as the guy that was caught laughing on the sidelines with Braxbum Dupree at the end of a loss last year.
Tucker averaged 12 minutes a game last season in his sophomore campaign, and with Sean Mosely and Adrian Bowie (not to mention Vasquez et al) really coming on at the end of last season (and with Mosely emerging in the offseason as the Terps’ next offensive option behind the seniors), I don’t really see that number going up. He could get a little time in the post, but again, I don’t think Tucker, at 6’6″, would be in line for that over Milbourne, Jordan Williams, Gregory, and Padgett. Gary Williams has hinted he’ll play three or even four guards at once. So that’s my guess as to Tucker’s role this season. He’s the “we’re gonna go small now” sub-in.
Tucker had some big games last season. He also had some bed-crappers. His two biggest games, both statistically and psychologically, were the 18 and 22 points he got against UNC last year. But in the Jan. 24 Duke debacle, he played 17 minutes but only scored two points on one shot. In the March 13 Wake Forest win, he played 12 minutes but only scored 2 points on 1-3 shooting. So yeah…he really was invisible at times.
And there are the character questions. Aside from the laughing incident, which caused a minor stir on the blogosphere, there was the DNP-coaches decision that he sustained against Miami, after which he (and his mother!) complained to the media about his utilization on the team. There were accusations that Tucker wasn’t giving it 100 percent, and wasn’t getting it when it came to the program and its objectives.
Throughout the season, his minutes were all over the place, ranging from 1 to 29. Obviously that’s not all his fault, but it does speak to the inconsistency of both his performance and his role last year.
As for this season, Tucker worked hard on his game over the summer. Along with Bowie and Gregory, Tucker attended a special camp to improve his ball-handling with Pro Hoops Founder Jay Hernandez. No word on whether they shared spiced meats in the hot TUB. (Sorry, archaic SNL reference.) They emphasized his ball control while running at full speed, as well as his “confidence” as it relates to “taking guys off the dribble.” This all hints at the way he anticipates being used — as part of a smaller, quicker, run-and-gun lineup.
In a way, Tucker mirrored the team last year. Capable of greatness and gret underacheivement. Gifted but tempermental. No floor, no ceiling. Roller coaster. And so on. But if he can get a more solid role within this small ball lineup, that should have a stabilizing force on him and the team. We shall see.
(Photo credit: MEAC/SWAC Sports Main Street)