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Tuck Earns All-America Honors, Admission Into Huskies Of Honor By Rich Elliott

POSTED April 02, 2016
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By Rich Elliott

INDIANAPOLIS – Morgan Tuck has been regarded as one of UConn’s top players since she joined the program in 2012. Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma found himself raving about her skills just days after practice began during her freshman season.

Tuck, a versatile 6-foot-2 forward, seemed destined to be named a first-team All-American before her career ended. That day arrived Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse when she was named to the 10-player WBCA All-America team.

“I’m so proud of Morgan Tuck because she doesn’t have this need for the spotlight or the limelight,” UConn assistant coach Marisa Moseley said. ``Yet, she comes and does her job every single day as well as anyone. She is consistent, and we know what we’re going to get from her. I think quietly she has become one of the best players in the country at her role. She knows what it is, and she embraced it. That’s why I think she was recognized as an All-American this year.’’

Tuck was joined on the team by fellow UConn seniors Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart. It is the ninth straight season that the Huskies have had at least one player on the WBCA team and it marks the first time that a UConn recruiting class has had three first-team All-Americans in one season.

``She’s been the way she is right now the minute that kid walked on campus,’’ Auriemma said. ``She’s been the most solid player on the team from Day One. And everything she gets she deserves and then some.’’

In being named a WBCA All-America, Tuck has earned her share of program immortality as she will be inducted into the Huskies of Honor. She will become the 19th player to have their number hanging on the wall inside Gampel Pavilion.

``It means everything,’’ Tuck said. ``That’s something that you look at when you first come on visits and things. And now to know that I’ll be up there forever it feels really good.’’

Stewart won the Wade Trophy for the second straight season, joining Maya Moore (2009-11) as the only UConn players to receive the award in multiple seasons. She also became the first women’s player to be named The Associated Press National Player of the Year three times. Former Virginia star Ralph Sampson also won the award three times.

``This is what you work for all season,’’ said Stewart, a three-time WBCA All-America. ``You’ve worked hard to have a great season and then be rewarded for it. The Wade Trophy is a huge deal. I think that it’s a very prestigious award and a lot of great players have won it, and to be able to have won it multiple times is putting myself in a class with only a few.

``I didn’t know there was never a three-time (AP) award winner for women’s basketball. It’s such an unbelievable honor to be able to do something in a sport where so much has been done already.’’

Jefferson, a two-time WBCA All-America, was named the WBCA Defensive Player of the Year.

``That’s something that I always wanted to do, but I didn’t think it was going to happen,’’ Jefferson said. ``So I’m just really excited. When they called my name I had no idea so it was a great feeling.’’

The quest to earn All-American honors began in earnest for Tuck at the end of last season when Auriemma and her teammates told her that she deserved the honor. She responded by producing the best season of her career.

Tuck, who was named a second-team All-American by The Associated Press Tuesday, is averaging 13.3 points and has set career-highs in rebounds (5.8)  assists (3.4) and minutes (26.3)  this season. She is also shooting 51.2 percent from the field.

``She should have gone in (the Huskies of Honor) on Senior Day (with Stewart and Jefferson), but things happened last year,’’ Stewart said. ``She has done so much for this program and maybe not been given as much credit as she deserves. But everyone in this locker room knows. You could ask anyone and they will tell you she has made a huge impact. We wouldn’t be here without her.”

Tuck, who wears No. 3, will be the second player to have that number in the Huskies of Honor. Diana Taurasi, of course, is the first.

``Diana is the best No. 3 to play here,’’ Tuck said.`` I can't even compete with her. When I decided to wear No. 3 it was for my sister (Taylor). But I knew it carried a big name in UConn basketball and I wanted to live up to it the best I could and I hope she’ll be proud.’’

Tuck could be playing in her final games at UConn. She does have one year of eligibility remaining after red-shirting the 2013-14 season due to a knee injury, but the idea of beginning her professional career looms.

Former UConn All-American and current ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo weighed in on Tuck’s situation Saturday morning.

``Playing for Coach Auriemma was one of the best basketball experiences I had in my life,’’ Lobo said. ``There were times in my pro career I thought I would love to have another chance to play for him. But considering her injury history and all of that, I would imagine the right decision for her might be coming out. And if they win the championship, and you could end it that way, that would be a pretty nice way to come out.’’

ANOTHER HONOR: Auriemma was named the National Coach of the Year by The Associated Press Saturday. That was not a surprise. What was a surprise, however, was the fact that he broke into tears during his remarks on the podium after receiving the award.

``I just couldn’t get the image of my coaches and how unbelievably passionate they are and how hard they work and how year after year after year after year they’re relentless,’’ Auriemma said. ``We never talk about … It’s almost what we talk about like the basketball program at the University of Connecticut. Like it’s this massive ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean. That it just goes by itself. You don’t realize that there’s people on it, driving this thing. People making it happen and there’s people that year after year after year after year after year are just making this thing work. And I guess it just all caught up to me this week for some reason.

``It’s just the overwhelming feeling of what our coaches do every day, what they do every day and how they do it and how when you think back to how many years we’ve been doing it this way. And (Chris Dailey) and Tonya (Cardoza) and Jamelle (Elliott) and Shea (Ralph) and Marisa (Moseley), it’s just unbelievable.’’

It is the first time since 2010-11 that Auriemma has been honored by The Associated Press. It is the eighth time overall.

``You could see up there the way that he invests everything into this,” Stewart said. ``A lot of people see one side of him, the side that’s the most intense, the most fierce. But this stuff hits home to him as well. There’s a number of reasons probably behind why he was getting a little emotional, but he definitely deserves all the success that he gets

``It doesn’t surprise me (that he cried), but it was nice to see. Not to say that he’s a stonewall or anything like that, but just how much he puts into this program and that kind of stuff. Now everybody is getting to see it, not just us.’’

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