Morgan Tuck looks to keep improving in 2015/2016. Story by Rich Elliott.
By Rich Elliott
There has never has any question regarding the skill set of UConn forward Morgan Tuck. At an agile 6-foot-2, she can play with her back to the basket as well as face-up. She can shoot from the perimeter. She can run the floor and score in transition.
Huskies’ coach Geno Auriemma found himself raving about Tuck during the first week of practice of her inaugural season with the program in October of 2012. The only question was would her problematic right knee allow her to reach her true potential?
Tuck found herself in and out of practice as a freshman. Still, she managed to appear in 35 games during UConn’s national championship run. Her sophomore season, however, was a nightmare as she first underwent arthroscopic surgery to stabilize cartilage in her knee Nov. 12, 2013 and then opted to undergo season-ending surgery Jan. 30, 2014 after playing in only eight games.
Knee trouble forced Tuck to miss 36 of a possible 79 games over her first two seasons. Last season, even though she felt confident that her knee would hold up, initially there was no certainty that it would.
Ultimately, Tuck was right. Her knee did hold up. And she established herself among the top players in the country as the Huskies won their third straight national championship and their 10th overall.
“You never really know what to expect coming out of a surgery,’’ Tuck said. ``But I was excited. I think that’s what kind of made it exceed my expectations just because how well we did as a team.
``It would get sore and that was expected. But I saw the doctor (Robert Arciero) after the season and he said how I did was great. It felt good while I was playing and being sore afterwards is a part of playing. With the cartilage in there, it's never my original cartilage again but it held up. This was my first full season since I've been here and I was able to stay healthy and it went well.’’
Tuck, who earned honorable mention All-American honors from The Associated Press, was third on the Huskies in scoring (14.4) and assists (2.9), second in field goal percentage (.596, fifth nationally) and averaged 5.5 rebounds and 25.5 minutes in 39 games (37 starts) last season.
And when the games mattered most late in the season Tuck was at her best. She averaged a team-high 19.2 points (.608 FG), 6.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 33.5 minutes during the NCAA tournament in being was named to the NCAA Final Four all-tournament and Albany all-regional teams.
Tuck finished with 24 points and nine rebounds in an 81-58 victory over Maryland in the NCAA tournament national semifinals. She then capped her breakthrough season with 12 points, five rebounds and seven assists in a 63-53 win over Notre Dame in the tournament final two days later.
``With everything that happened her sophomore year I think people didn’t even expect it because people didn’t know because people hadn’t really seen her,’’ UConn sophomore Gabby Williams said. ``So I think a lot was thrown on her and she handled it really, really well.’’
Tuck had failed to score at least 20 points in her first 43 games. She did so seven times last season and over the course of enjoying great success and health she learned a lot about herself.
``I had the ACL (injury in her left knee in June of 2009) so I knew it’s hard to come back,’’ Tuck said. ``But this one was a lot harder. So I learned that I can be really determined to do the right things and make sure that I get to come back. I learned a lot about my team. They helped me from when I had surgery until the end of the year just making sure ... seeing how I’m feeling, making sure my spirits were up and things like that.’’
Tuck is no longer worried about her knee. There is no extensive rehabilitation process to endure this off-season. She is solely looking to rest and improve.
She attended a summer session at UConn, took part in both individual workouts and pick-up games.
One the most difficult decisions Tuck had to make was not to compete with USA Basketball this summer. Instead, she said that she will spend this month and next at home before returning for the fall semester, which begins Aug. 31.
``I talked to the coaches and talked to my parents and we decided that the best thing to do was rest and not have any excess pounding,’’ Tuck said. ``I really did want to play USA Basketball because this is the first time I haven't done it by my decision. It's good to relax and enjoy the summer.’’
A focus for Tuck during the off-season is working on her perimeter game and rebounding. She admitted that last season was ``a blast.’’ However, she is not close to being satisfied with the level of success that she reached last season.
Tuck is striving to achieve further greatness. And being healthy certainly provides her with a strong foundation moving forward.
“It feels good,” Tuck said. “You don't have to worry about anything, and you’re just going out there and playing. So I think that feels good just because this is going to be the first year that I don't have any issues of not being healthy or having to rehab and things like that. So it feels good to just be able to play basketball. I expect to do what I did last year and even more. I don't want to just repeat last year. I want to improve and make sure that I’m contributing even more.”