After having the opportunity to score a late bucket on Wednesday night at Penn State to join the exclusive 2,000-point club, Tucker, with the persuasion of his teammates, decided to wait until Wisconsin returned to the friendly confines of the Kohl Center against Iowa Saturday afternoon.
By the reception he received after his first bucket, Tucker, as he usually does, made the right choice.
When his baseline jumper went down at the 18:47 mark of the first half, Tucker became the first Badger to surpass the 2,000-point barrier in 12 years, joining standout Badger Michael Finley as the only other card carrying member of that club.
"He's got 2,000 points because [the media] tells me he does – I didn't look it up – and all [his points] were trying to help his team win," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. "When can you think of times that he has been so selfish that it has been about something else? Not with him. He's earned everything that has come his way."
With his game-high 21 points he earned against the Hawkeyes, the landmark came, much like so many of his other points at home, in a Wisconsin win.
"It would have really sucked if we lost," Tucker said with a laugh. "When I look back, it will be a ‘W' and that will be very exciting for me."
From what Tucker has been through in his life, he would have proud enough to score just 1,000 points.
After a freshman campaign in which he started the team's final 27 games, Tucker turned into more than just a shooter. Developing into a multi-dimensional player, Tucker averaged 12 points per contest and set a school record with 2.69 offensive rebounds per game.
With high expectations for the young sophomore, Tucker suffered a severe right foot injury that forced him to miss most of the 2003-04 season. In his limited action though, Tucker still was able to drop 17 points on rival Marquette. Still, the injury forced Tucker to take a medical redshirt and was a hit to the up-and-coming star.
"Tuck has been through a lot, even before he came to Wisconsin," teammate and close friend Kammron Taylor said. "He's persevered through everything he's been through with the injury he had. He's a hard worker and deserves everything."
Tucker did bounce back from his injury, leading Wisconsin in scoring - 15.2 points per game – in his second sophomore year and led the Badgers to the first Elite Eight in five years. Still, Tucker was continually looked upon to harness more of the scoring load. For the second consecutive year, Tucker, then a junior, led the Badgers in scoring, field goals and attempts in what was a disappointing 19-10 campaign. Regardless, Tucker learned about being a leader on and off the court.
"Every time he puts on the jersey, he realizes it is a big game," teammate Brian Butch said. "It's nice when you're playing with the national player of the year."
Last season's woes set the stage for this season's excitement for Wisconsin and the play of Tucker. The Badgers, now 24-2, are in prime position for a run at the Big Ten title and a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. For what it is worth, Tucker has been doing his part, averaging 23.0 points over his last five conference games and making himself one of the front runners for national player of the year.
"He's never tried to do anything scoring wise where he would intentionally take bad shots or force things," Ryan said. "He's never jackin' up shots, like we used to say on the playground. He scores in ways from ten feet and in that I haven't seen many guys do."
"When you have a player like that on your team, one of the best players in college basketball, it is that much easier to play the game," Taylor added.
Which made it all the more important that Tucker achieved this milestone in front of his home crowd, sharing a very special moment in his life with the fans that had supported him throughout the ups and downs of his career.
"I took a lot of heat about that because everybody said that it was planned," Tucker said with a smile. "I can not plan to score 24 points. It definitely feels good to bring it home and the standing ovation I received, I took that to heart. I try not to get emotional on the court, but it definitely played to my emotions."
Don't be fooled, however. Tucker isn't worrying right now about scoring records. Although his 21 points against Iowa leaves him just 127 behind Finley for number one all-time, Tucker wants to do something more important that Finley never accomplished – make it to a Final Four.
"I was focused on beating Iowa tonight because [2,000 points] wasn't going to be on there mind and so I couldn't have it on mine," Tucker said. "It means a lot to my teammates, my family and the people that surround me and me too. I've done it and achieved it, but it's time to move on right now and get ready for the next one."