Jannah Tucker prepares for knee surgery

Jannah Tucker has a surgery date set to repair her ACL and spoke to Inside Tennessee to talk about her knee injury and her plans going forward. Go inside to hear from the 2013 Lady Vols commit.

Jannah Tucker, the first player in the class of 2013 to commit to first-year head coach Holly Warlick, had to call Tennessee last month to break the news that she had torn the ACL in her left knee while playing USA basketball in Puerto Rico.

Jannah Tucker was immediately told she was still welcome with the Lady Vols – and the 6-0 wing from Randallstown, Md., will sign her national letter of intent in November – and the commitment remained intact.

"They made sure that they told me that nothing changed and to focus on me," Tucker said. "Just knowing the quality of the people they have and the character and knowing that they've had players who've been through the same thing and they still maintained their word, I didn't have any doubt in my mind."

Tennessee does have experience with recruits hurting their knees before they arrive on campus. Freshman guard Andraya Carter tore her ACL in the summer before her senior year of high school. Carter is now wowing the coaches in the individual workouts with her athleticism and attitude. Candace Parker also tore her ACL in high school and led the Lady Vols to national titles in 2007 and 2008.

"They were surprised and very understanding at the same time," Jannah Tucker said of her conversation with Tennessee. "They've had a lot of ACL injuries come through, and the training regimen is wonderful. They knew that I would come back stronger and focused and have a positive mind-set to just get ready for Tennessee."

Tucker's father, Robert Tucker, said the reaction of Tennessee underscored to the family that his daughter made the right decision last June to offer her verbal commitment to Warlick.

"Very supportive and encouraging and very helpful," said Robert Tucker, who also made contact with the coaches to tell them about his daughter's injury. "It was reassuring. It was great. It let her know that they're still behind her 100 percent.

"She felt that. It confirmed her feeling that this is a place that cares about me as an individual and as an athlete."

The Tucker family will make the trip to Knoxville for an official visit on the weekend of Oct. 19. It will be a busy weekend for recruits, as Tucker is expected to be joined on campus by Mercedes Russell, a 6-5 post from Springfield, Oregon; Emmonie Henderson, a 6-2 forward from Edwardsville, Ill; Jordan Reynolds, a 5-11 guard from Portland, Oregon; and Tyler Scaife, a 5-8 guard from Little Rock, Ark. Linnae Harper, a 5-6 guard from Chicago, also may attend that weekend.

That will be the weekend of the Tennessee-Alabama football game so it should be a festive atmosphere.

"Everybody is excited to come down and get a taste of that Tennessee feeling and tradition," Robert Tucker said. "We are looking forward to seeing the coaching staff and touring the campus."

Jannah Tucker will be about one month out of surgery by the time of her visit. The operation date is set for Sept. 20 at Union Memorial Hospital and will be performed by the surgeon who handles sports medicine for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens and specializes in knee restoration.

Candace Parker is an example of a player who arrived in college with a previous knee injury and overcoming.
(Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images)
"He is highly regarded, and we feel confident that she is in the right hands," Robert Tucker said. "We have a great team of physicians, as well as a great team of rehab specialists and the facilities are right around the corner from our house."

The injury occurred in mid-August. Tucker is a top 10 recruit who won a gold medal for the United States at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship and was competing this summer for the USA at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Gurabo, Puerto Rico.

During that competition, Jannah Tucker slipped on a damp area of the court on a drive to the paint, causing her left foot to stick and then resulting in the injury to her knee. Tucker's father said the ACL was a clean tear and the MCL sustained minor damage and will heal on its own.

"I was driving baseline and as I was jumping my foot slid out and it felt like I slipped on a wet spot," she said. "My foot went out and my knee went in and that is how I tore it."

Robert Tucker reached his daughter by phone shortly after the incident, and she explained what happened.

"She clearly slipped on a wet spot, whether it was sweat or what she doesn't know," he said. "She felt it give. She felt her foot slipping. She said the floor kind of grabbed her foot. She told me right away there was a wet spot on the floor, and I felt my leg go and then when it caught is when it buckled.

"You knew it, but she couldn't do anything about it."

The injury was a clean tear – the best-case scenario – and residual damage was minimal.

"It was pretty much clean, and she'll make a full recovery and be stronger from it so we're pretty fortunate when we got the news about that," Robert Tucker said.

While all athletes get bruised and nicked and sustain injuries of some type while competing in sports, this is Jannah Tucker's first significant setback.

"Mentally it was hard at first but then you have to change your mind-set and be positive and think I am going to come back stronger," she said.

Her father has always emphasized strength training and agility for his daughter in an attempt to shield her from serious injury and improve her game.

"We were prepared for this, but you don't expect to slip on a wet spot on the floor," he said. "She was strong enough that it was nothing really severe (in terms of total knee damage).

"She was disappointed initially, but within a few minutes of talking to me on the phone her focus was, ‘I want to get stronger.' Her mind just shifted."

Rehab began immediately in Puerto Rico and continued when Jannah Tucker returned home. Her final year of high school basketball is not a concern. Getting her ready for college is the focus now for the family.

"It's all about rehabbing and getting stronger," Robert Tucker said. "We are not rushing her back for high school. Her focus now is to get better and stronger for when she gets to Tennessee. She is looking forward to her college career."

Jannah Tucker endorses that game plan.

"That is my main focus right now, intense rehab," she said. "I am trying to get my quad muscle stronger. I have full range of motion right now.

"I am really focused on getting ready for Tennessee."


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