Will do: Lake Zurich's Tucker comfortable in any role
A shooter knows his range and keeps his confidence (and head) up. But Lake Zurich senior guard Will Tucker knows he, likely, has no shot at reaching one particular target.
After all, LZHS's all-time leading boys basketball scorer shares the same gym every day with Tucker, who last Friday night reached a milestone against visiting Libertyville by scoring the 1,000th point of his varsity career.
Lake Zurich assistant coach Mike Kolze tallied, gulp, 1,962 points as a two-time all-state LZ Bear.
"Oh, yes, I'm aware. Believe me," Tucker says with a laugh. "I was teasing him the other day. I was like, 'I need to average, what do you think, like 80 (points) a game from here on out?' Then I was like, 'But then you got to take into account that if I'm going to average 80 a game, we're probably going to make a deeper run (in the state tournament) than you'd anticipate. So maybe only 70.' "
A lengthy postseason run for the Bears is, likely, not going to happen, even if Tucker averages a more-realistic 20 points in the final couple of weeks. This isn't two years ago, after all, when Tucker started on a team, led by seniors Ryan Kutsor and Peter DiCerbo, that won 26 games and a Class 4A sectional championship. Tucker was the only sophomore on the roster, after being up and down with the varsity as a freshman.
This season, after a 7-24 campaign last season, Lake Zurich is 7-16 and has lost 9 of its last 10 heading into Friday's North Suburban Conference game at Libertyville.
"It's very different this year," says the 6-foot-1 Tucker, who had a 24-point game in an overtime loss at Warren last month. "It's hard to say I want to be a scorer for this team because, at the same time, there are just so many things that we need. [As a sophomore], my natural role was running corner to corner and Ryan Kutsor getting in the lane and me shooting 3s. That was luck. That was the dream."
Coaching a kid like Tucker is a coach's dream. A straight-A student (4.98 GPA) who plans to study business at the University of Virginia, he will finish his competitive basketball career as a three-year team captain. That's not the norm, and neither is his maturity. He's 18 going on 48.
"He's got a maturity beyond his years," says Lake Zurich coach Terry Coughlin, who replaced Billy Pitcher two years ago and learned quickly that Tucker was a high-character, hoops-loving kid who coaches had to kick out of the gym. "One of the things I appreciate about Will that I think is hard for young kids today is that he's a truth-teller. He's not afraid to have difficult conversations."
And that pertains to both coaches and teammates. Tucker has come to Coughlin and been a voice for his teammates. Coughlin has relied on him.
"People, when they're 16 or 17 years old, they're still figuring out how to communicate really well," says Coughlin, adding Tucker is a great ambassador for his program. "He can communicate just as well with a 16-year-old or freshman as he can with myself or Coach Kolze. That's rare."
That's parenting. That's Will Tucker.
"I guess I've just always felt comfortable being direct and not beating around the bush," says Tucker, the youngest of two children of Bob and Laurie. "It doesn't really help anybody if you sugarcoat things. I never try to insult anybody. But I think you're never going to insult anybody if you're just straight-up and frank with them."
Tucker is honest with himself too and the state of Lake Zurich boys basketball. As a sophomore, he knocked down 87 3-pointers on a remarkable 49-percent shooting from the arc. His shooting form is textbook.
"You can thank Coach Pick for that," Tucker, whose deep voice matches his deep range on the basketball court, says of former LZ assistant Chris Pickens, who assists Matt Badgley at Mundelein and is one of the most reputable shooting coaches in the area.
Tucker has worked with Pickens since the third or fourth grade.
"He's the absolute best," Tucker says.
Since that memorable 2017-18 season, however, Tucker has seen his opportunities to shoot the 3 decrease. While he averages 13 points per game (43 3-pointers), he also serves as one of the Bears' primary ballhandlers. Coughlin notes Tucker has done of good job this season of being more aggressive going to the rim and drawing contact to get to the free-throw line.
A scorer finds all different kinds of ways to score.
"I'm just going to be in different positions [during a game], as opposed to being in the corner, waiting for a kick," Tucker says. "I'm at the top, breaking pressure or releasing pressure. It's different. But I like it."
A challenging last two seasons on the court has made Tucker only more mature.
But then, is that possible?
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