Enrico Tucker's Situation Symbolizes New Era

One of America's premier point guard defenders and playmakers, Enrico Tucker has made his choice of where to attend school after his 2004 graduation. However, the real story begins now, after his commitment. Because of his vastly improving game, some elite level schools will do their best to persuade Tucker to instead come and play for them. These are the new recruiting wars and Tucker's story will be one to watch.

One of the top rising juniors from the summer camps, 5-11 PG Enrico "Rico" Tucker, committed Monday night to San Diego and coach Brad Holland.

Tucker, who has two more years left at San Diego's University High will now literally play across the street from his high school campus at the University of San Diego.

Almost definitely the best on-the-ball defender that I watched play all summer, Tucker has seen his stock rise as fast as anyone on the West Coast from last year to this because of his improved all-around game.

Over the summer, Tucker made the all-tournament teams at both the Full-Court Press All-West Camp and at the Eastern Invitational in New Jersey. Both times he was one of only two rising juniors to be included on the 25-man All-Star teams.

He was being shown interest by several Pac-10 schools but was bowled over by the USD coaching staff's presentation last night on campus.

Apparently, USD has five scholarships to give in 2003 but promised Rico that they would save one for him if he committed now. They even had a locker with his name on it and gave him the choice of jersey numbers to wear once he got to school (he chose No. 14).

USD recently had Brett Melton transfer from Illinois to join the team and have already signed three guys from 2003's class and are hoping for a commitment soon from Rico's AAU teammate Allan Wiggins, Jr.

Coach Holland is trying to keep up with San Diego State coach Steve Fischer, who has been bringing in a lot of the more high profile recruits to America's most beautiful city.

Tucker had a better all-around game than the super-hyped Lodrick Stewart at the Best of Summer tournament a few weeks ago when the two squared off. Tucker played lockdown defense on the ultra-athletic left-handed Stewart twin and added a game-high 12 assists in a blowout win for his IEBP Ballers team.

An impressive athlete himself, Tucker also plays football and ran for over 1,750 yards last year as a sophomore. He sports a 44-inch vertical leap and has put on several dunking displays in games. All of this from a guy only 5-11.

His commitment is not binding until letter of intent signing day some 15 months down the road. Expect many schools (mostly higher profile) to continue in their pursuit of Tucker until November, 2003.

Thereinlies the danger of both recruiting and commiting to athletes with more than a year left in high school. Someone like Tucker, whose evolution as a player is just beginning to come out, could find elite teams like (for example) UCLA, Oregon or Florida trying to recruit over his commitment to USD because his game will continue to grow. Holland, the Torreros' coach, might have to sweat the next 15 months out, hoping being close to friends and family in San Diego weighs more heavily on Rico than does the chance to play for a more visible team.

Arizona recently received a verbal commitment from Houston area SG Juwann McClellan, and while his situation is similar in that he is only going to be a junior, it's hard to imagine him finding a better option than playing for Lute Olson and the Wildcats. Schools don't recruit over a Duke or a UCLA or even a Georgia. San Diego has yet to earn that privilege.

There have been some private and not-so-private grumblings from already-committed players from the class of 2004. Kids want to be shown that they are important and that their commitments are reciprocated from their chosen school. When a 2004 kid sees his school go out and sign a 2003 guy that plays his position, it's understandable that he might re-think his loyalty to said school. This is not a novel concept, in fact, it's been happening all over the nation lately.

For argument's sake, let's say School A goes out and gets a verbal from a top-ranked 2004 point guard. They're happy, the kid's happy, it's all great. UNTIL, that is, School A finds out that someone like 2003 super prospect Sebastian Telfair wants to play for them. This does happen and it will continue to happen. Realistically, as a coach the only thing that matters is winning "now". Turning down a commitment from someone like Telfair would be foolish, even though it might mean the 2004 kid de-commits and then signs on with your arch-rival so he can take out his feelings of betrayal on your for the next four years.

Then there is the case of recruiting over schools that have already received commitments from certain athletes. This is apparently stated policy in the Pac-10 between football coaches. Cal, Oregon and Washington all were criticized for doing so this past off-season. It happens in basketball, too.

And the guess here is that Enrico Tucker and his father, Terry, had better prepare themselves for the inevitable onslaught of coaches from other schools selling themselves to get Rico away from USD and to their campuses.

Contact Ben Hansen at AZPointGuardU@yahoo.com

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