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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Family ties are strong for UConn's Morgan Tuck

When the UConn women's basketball team took the court in mid October for the first official practice of the 2014-15 season it was still hard to tell what Morgan Tuck's role was going to be.

The talented forward played only eight games the previous season before undergoing season-ending knee surgery. The consistency shown by Tuck has been truly remarkable. The redshirt sophomore has scored in double figures 29 times in 33 games, second only to Breanna Stewart's 30. Stewart is also the only Husky averaging more points in games against ranked teams than Tuck.

There's been plenty of times when I have posted the thoughts of Tuck, UConn coach Geno Auriemma and her teammates on the impressive season Tuck is putting together. I decided to take it a step further and get in touch with the person who knows her better than anybody else. Thanks to the folks at the University of Illinois, I spoke with Tuck's older sister Taylor for about 15 minutes yesterday.

How close are the sisters? Well, Taylor Tuck said, "it would be weird to go a couple of days in a row without talking to her."

Taylor, who just finished a four year run as a member of the Illinois women's basketball team, was there when Morgan was working vigorously on working her way back after knee surgery.

"I knew when she was doing her rehab that she was coming back strong," Taylor Tuck said. "She was due for a year like this and she wanted it so bad. I think she has worked herself into a leadership role on Connecticut's team and I am not surprised because it fits her so well."

Morgan Tuck said all the right things last season as she was reduced to the role of reluctant spectator after undergoing the knee surgery that brought an end to her season. It had to be a season of mixed feelings as she was able to witness her teammates roll to a 40-0 season but also a sense of helplessness as she couldn't get out there to help them.

"It was definitely tough because she did play some but last year her playing time was kind of play a little and see how it feels," Taylor Tuck said. "Sometimes she would be fine and other times her knee was bothering her. I think it was more in and out and that kind of bothered her the most because she just didn't know. I think it became easier for her once she knew she was going to redshirt and she was going to be OK to play (this season)."

It did not surprise her sister to hear that Auriemma considers Tuck to be one of the leaders on this year's squad.

"Morgan has always been a leader but I feel like the amount of injuries she has been through, she has had injuries since her freshman year of high school and she always comes back stronger," Taylor Tuck said. "She had her ACL tear, when she came back from that she was even better than she was before so her bouncing back from injuries says a lot because her mindset is always positive. I think a big part of injuries is the mental part and I don't see her struggling mentally once she does come back. She is on the court she is full go and she puts injuries out of her mind. She is just playing .

"For anything she has wanted to do she has had that philosophy, anything that Morgan wants to do she is going to do it no matter what and she has been like that since we were kids."

Taylor is a year older and Morgan is always quick to credit her sister for opening the doors for her. She got to see how much fun her sister had playing basketball and soon joined her on the court. So when did Taylor realize that little sister was going places in the basketball world?

"Probably when she was in eighth grade and she was a freshman (at Bolingbrook High School)," Taylor Tuck said.. "I was on the varsity team and Morgan would come practice for us, playing with freshmen and seniors and she was dominating in practice with the varsity team as an eighth grader. I think that was when everybody realized that she is going to be really good.

"I felt like she was going to be a great player but at that age you could never see how far she has gone. I am not surprised by her success but we didn't see it, we didn't see down the line. It is not surprising but it wasn't necessarily expected at that age."

When I think about Morgan Tuck's approach to basketball I only think of one former UConn player she reminds me of and that is Asjha Jones who was a model of consistency playing alongside some of the greatest players in UConn women's basketball history. Jones never got too high or too low regardless of the situation and I see many of the same attributes in Tuck.

"That is completely her personality," Taylor Tuck said. "Morgan doesn't show a lot of emotion, she never gets too excited, never gets too down. What you see on the court, she is like that in every aspect in her life, with her friendships, her relationships. She never gets rattled. She is like that all the time, that is her personality that is what you see on the court."

So what's next for Taylor Tuck?

She is looking to enroll in graduate school likely pursuing a career in hospital administration. She has an internship with a local hospital set up and could go to graduate school at Illinois or perhaps somewhere near Virginia where her parents moved in January after her father received a promotion, There is a chance she could look into being a graduate assistant on a coaching staff.

"I won't be playing anymore but I did think about going into coaching so it would be a way for me to stay around basketball," Taylor Tuck.

Taylor said she was able to catch almost all of Morgan's games this season on her computer. She hasn't seen Morgan play live since the 2013 Final Four. She said she intends to be in Tampa for the Final Four, assuming that Morgan and the Huskies are there. Next year she hopes to be able to make it to more games up close and in person.

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