Tucker:"I've always wanted to go to Maryland"

When El Paso, Tx., guard Cliff Tucker arrived last week for the Capital Classic in College Park, it was like a trip home. Most of his family lives here, and he doesn't often get to make the nearly 2,000-mile trip. But Friday, Tucker assured himself an extended stay back in the area, signing a Letter of Intent to play for Maryland, becoming the fifth and final recruit in the 2007 class.

Tucker faxed his LOI to the Maryland staff Friday morning and held an afternoon press conference in El Paso to announce his intent.

"It feels real good to get all the pressure off my back and that I finally got to sign with the school I wanted to, so I was real happy," he said.

The 6-foot-5 combo guard was one of the top unsigned players in the country before inking with Maryland. A star on the football field as well, Tucker elected to play basketball exclusively in college, much to the delight of Maryland Coach Gary Williams.

"Cliff is a tremendous athlete who competed in both football and basketball," Williams said in a press release earlier Friday. "He's a versatile player who can play a number of positions for us."

Tucker said the coaches see him in a D.J. Strawberry-type role with the ability to drive to the basket and shoot from outside. His performance in the Capital Classic, though, showed a more unselfish and driven side to his game.

"I like to get other players involved and I just like to win—that's my best quality," he said. "I'll do whatever it takes to win."

The Capital Classic was the first time many of his relatives in the area got to see him play. His grandparents even brought signs to the game encouraging him to suit up for the Terps. It was the opportunity to be able to play in front of his family that helped him make his decision.

"Most of my family, they don't get to see me a lot and see me play since I live all the way in Texas. So they really wanted me to come up here and play in front of them every night," he said.

Tucker had already met two fellow incoming freshmen before the Classic—Braxton Dupree and Shane Walker. He played with Dupree at the ABCD camp over the summer and met Walker on his visit to Maryland earlier this year.

Tucker said playing at Maryland was something he wanted to do for a long time. But when he roomed with Dupree and Dino Gregory during the Classic and got to know the rest of the class, the deal was sealed.

"I've always wanted to go to Maryland since I was little, but probably after the Capital Classic and spending time with some of the other recruits—that's what probably put the icing on the cake," he said.

With only four guards on the roster for next year—all of them sophomores or freshmen—Tucker will have to step in and contribute right away. Like most incoming freshman, Tucker will arrive early to Maryland to begin classes and work out with the team. He plans to enroll in the second summer session which begins July 13.

When he leaves El Paso, he'll go down as one of best basketball players in some time to play in the football-dominated city. His press conference today captured the attention of the city. He isn't, however, one to gloat about it.

"Not a lot of players from El Paso went out and signed with Division I schools," he said. "I just appreciate what everybody did for me."

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