UNC showing interest in Tucker

Anthony "P.J." Tucker's stock is on the rise. This spring, he's escaped the mid-major label and emerged as a high-major talent.

Sure, the rising senior forward put up 27 points and 17 rebounds per game at Raleigh (N.C.) Enloe last season. But big-time schools overlooked the way he tore apart opponents in the post with a nasty, reckless abandon.

Why? Because he's 6-5.

So, he had offers from UNC Wilmington, UNC Greensboro, Virginia Tech and West Virginia -- and occasional letters from some ACC schools.

But after a dominating weekend at the Tournament of Champions (averaging 23.3 points and double-digit rebounds), elite programs began calling on Tucker -- including North Carolina

Following an impressive 30-point performance in his N.C. Gaters' win over Beach Ball Select, a team that included signed Tar Heel Raymond Felton and big man Major Wingate, Tucker heard from the UNC staff.

"Our boss Vic Sapp started talking to them a lot more now," Tucker said.

Sapp, the president of the Gaters, heard from the Tar Heels assistant coaches that weekend.

"Coach [Fred] Quartlebaum asked about him during the TOC tournament and Coach [Doug] Wojick called and asked me to have PJ call him," he said. Tucker was scheduled to call Wojcik yesterday.

"I told Doug, for three years I coached against P.J. on the Red Storm's AAU team and for three years he kicked our butt, not Bobby Perry or Anthony King, but PJ," Sapp added, noting that he then brought Tucker onto the Gaters.

In a normal year with five scholarships available, Tucker would be a legitimate candidate for a ride at UNC. However, due to the scholarship crunch, don't expect the Tar Heels to offer more than a courtesy look -- at least heading into the summer.

North Carolina is far from the only program that is now showing an increased interest. Wake Forest has offered, while NC State, Tennessee, UConn, Maryland and Duke are inquiring.

"P.J. is the answer to all the big kids out there who look like they'd rather be doing just about anything but playing basketball," said Michael Kruse, of Basketball America. "The kid's a relentless and ruthless rebounder. He's a good jumper, yes, but he's a remarkable 'quick' jumper -- he gets up and down and up and down again crazy fast.

"But the best part? He plays with a chip on his shoulder -- the good kind of chip. He seeks out guys who are supposed to be better than he is. And then he beats the bejesus out of them. If P.J. Tucker were 6-10 or 6-11, we wouldn't even be talking about a school list -- but he is what he is. And that's still pretty darn good."

Sapp added, "I think his size is a liability but he has proven he can rebound and score with the best players at 6-9 or 6-10. He boxes out, he makes head fakes and he is explosive. I think he can play the 4 in college with teams playing up-tempo."

Much like Eric Hicks, the 6-5 power forward from Greensboro who overcame his lack of height to earn a scholarship to Cincinnati last year, Tucker aims to show the doubters this summer he belongs at one of the nation's top programs.

"So I'm small," Tucker told BA. "But I'm not too worried about that. And when people see what I can do, they're not too worried about it, either."

Tucker will attend the Nike All-American Camp. He'll also spend part of the summer in class – his choice – so that he can replace some poor grades that came early in his high school career.


Inside Carolina Top Stories