By Carl Adamec
The only way to tell that Morgan Tuck is a freshman with the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team is with a scorecard.
Now, it’s only two weeks into practice and the Huskies have yet to play an exhibition or regular season game yet, and there are plenty of freshman walls that Tuck will have to knock down along the way.
But if you want to talk about making a positive first impression, just listen to UConn coach Geno Auriemma.
“Morgan’s unbelievable,” he said. “She makes threes. She makes the right pass all the time. Defensively, she’s always in the right spot.
She finishes around the basket or gets fouled. She picks up things so quickly, just like that. Now you know me …”
And we know that the Hall of Fame coach is usually not that quick to give freshmen such rave reviews.
Tuck, a 6-foot-2 wing from Bolingbrook, Ill., is taking things one day at a time and just looking to improve every day.
“I’m trying to show that I can earn some playing time,” Tuck said. “I want to show that I can play with anyone and that I can fit in with my teammates.”
So far, so good.
Tuck averaged 27.7 points, and 10.2 rebounds as a senior at Bolingbrook High and was a consensus All-American and named Ms. Illinois Basketball. She finished with 2,342 points and 948 rebounds in a career that saw Bolingbrook go 110-7. But her bid for a fourth straight state title ended in the Hinsdale Central super-sectionals on Feb. 27 when Bolingbrook fell to Whitney Young High in four overtimes.
But what helped make Tuck’s transition to college ball easier was her experience with USA Basketball.
She represented the United States the past three summers, winning gold each time. In 2011, she played with future UConn teammates Bria Hartley, Stefanie Dolson, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, and Breanna Stewart on the U-19 world championship club. This past summer she played with Stewart and Moriah Jefferson on the U-18 national team.
“That helped a lot, playing against the best players in our age group in the country,” Tuck said. “Every day you had to compete. That’s what you have to do here. Being with the U-19 group last year — Bria, Stefanie, Kaleena — they gave me an idea what it would be like here, what practices would be like. They told me how Coach would be. It’s been really helpful.”
But even though she was prepared, Tuck admits she was nervous when practice began.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” she said with a smile. “We went over the drills before we started but that it was our first practice I was nervous. My teammates were great, though, because any questions I had they helped me out.
“The toughest part is practice is at a faster pace than maybe we’re used to. Everything is quicker. The drills are pretty much the same but you keep moving. You can’t take a break. It’s tougher mentally than physically. You have to be more focused. You can’t slip. You have to listen to everything that Coach says.”
With second-ranked UConn’s exhibition opener against Indiana University of Pennsylvania just three days away, the intensity is starting to rise.
For those with a scorecard, Tuck will be wearing uniform No. 3 with the Huskies.
Tuck wore No. 44 during her high school career and the number was available for her at UConn. But she had something else in mind when she asked to wear No. 3. It’s not that she wants to be the next Diana Taurasi or even the next Tiffany Hayes. She wants to honor her older sister. Taylor, by having it.
“My sister inspires me in basketball and in life,” Tuck said. “I look up to her and she has always been there for me from the time that I started playing. She always has been my biggest fan. A lot of people ask me if she’s jealous when I do well. Never. In fact, she’s the person most happy for me all the time. I want to be like her.”
Taylor Tuck, a year older, is a reserve forward for the University of Illinois. The sisters teamed to win three Class 4A state
championships in high school.
“Taylor wears No. 3 at Illinois and I’m going to be No. 3 for her,” Morgan Tuck said. “I guess you can say now we come from a long line of 3s.
“Wearing No. 3 (at UConn) is a big thing. It’s Diana. It’s Tiffany. They’re great players. I know that I’ll play my hardest because I’ll be representing them, the University, and my sister.”
Tuck hopes that good things come with No. 3.