Rico Tucker spent the summer at Minnesota, taking summer school classes and working hard on his game. Tucker has a chance to see early minutes with the Gophers and hopes to shake the memories of making just three of 18 shots as the Dons fell to Tartan 60-54 at the Timberwolves Gatorade Shootout back in January.
Talk a little about your summer. I know that you were a camp counselor at the adidas Superstar camp in July and played against North Carolina's Raymond Felton and others. How was that experience for you?
"It was a good experience playing against those guys because they've been playing Division I basketball for awhile now. Anytime you can learn from good players like Ray Felton, (Indiana guard) Marshall Strickland, who I'll be playing against this year and (Kansas guard) Aaron Miles, you are going to get good experiences. They had NBA guys working us out, so you got to see the level above the next level is. It was a good experience. I learned a lot and saw what it takes to play at this level."
Word is that you more than held your own against those players. Does that give you even more confidence?
"It just shows you all the hard work. I worked out with Trent Tucker when I first got out here. I got here June 10th and from that day until the day I left, I was working out two or three times a day. It just shows that all the work I'm doing is paying off and that it going to help during the season, as far as being in shape and being physically fit. With the weight room work that we do, I'm as physically strong as some of the guys that I played with that have two or three years on me. It is a real confidence boost going into the season, especially with a young team and how we are going to have to all jell together. It shows that I can play at this level."
What is your role with this team? There is an opportunity to get significant playing time right away, if you are up to it.
"Well, I'm definitely, up to it. Just from the summer, the runs that we've had and all the workouts we've had, I've been able to hold my own, so I feel that I'll be able to make a contribution right away."
What type of things are you working on to improve your game?
"When I was working out with Trent, I was doing a lot of shooting. Better ballhandling. You can also get better at those two things. I tried to play good solid defense on the guards like Aaron (Robinson) and Adam (Boone). I tried to guard a couple of bigger guys, in case I get thrown in there with Adam at the same time or with Aaron in certain situations. Mainly shooting and defense. Just getting my shot more consistent."
You played at the Target Center last year and to be honest, you had one of your worst games. Is that a motivating factor to prove that was an off day and that you can play a lot better?
"I definitely want to improve on that. I know that for a few people that came up to the gym, that was the first time they had seen me or heard of me, so I am definitely trying to erase that memory that all those people have of that game. It was just one of those days. Everyone has those days. You just have to move on."
I know that Tyrone Shelly is your cousin and the Gophers are showing him a lot of interest. Have you talked to him a little about Minnesota? I know that it is early with him only being a sophomore.
"It's early for him. I try to leave him alone on that, but I stick in a few comments in there, like "You want to be a Gopher." He is really into video games, so I'm telling him to play with the Gophers on the video games. I want him to make his own decision, not based on me. It's really early for him. He's got a long way to go, so he'll get to figure that all out as time goes on."