A day to remember for UConn's Morgan Tuck
Tuck announced her decision not to return for a fifth season of eligibility and turn pro on ESPN on Wednesday morning before the team returned to Connecticut from Indianapolis. About eight hours later a stunned Tuck saw her No. 3 join the Huskies of Honor while sitting with fellow seniors Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Briana Pulido during the championship celebration inside Gampel Pavilion.
"It is a great feeling," Tuck said of the Huskies of Honor induction. "It has been a dream since I have come here so to be a part of that, it means everything.
"I couldn't have asked for a better way to do it. My teammates are extremely happy for me and I couldn't have asked for a better way to end my career here. The way you want to go out, this is what you want to do. For me for us, we are really happy we are able to do that."
Tuck didn't pinpoint the time when she knew she would join Stewart and Jefferson as likely lottery picks in next week's WNBA draft.
"I've known for a little bit," Tuck said. "I wanted to put it on the backburner and make sure I enjoyed the rest of the season. It wasn't a surprise and the coaches knew, my teammates knew so it wasn't out of nowhere.
"April is a great month this year so I am really excited about what we are able to do, all the stuff that is coming up in a week or so, it is kind of crazy that it is happening that fast."
Tuck said she obviously spoke with her parents during the process of deciding to turn pro or return for a fifth season of eligibility. UConn coach Geno Auriemma was another person she went to for advice.
"I talked to Coach quite a bit about it," Tuck said. "I went to get his thoughts because he has worked with players who are in the WNBA so I really tried to get his opinion."
Auriemma said Tuck isn't running away from anything and deserves the chance to head to the pros with the players she came to UConn with. Then he joked that if Stewart and Jefferson were coming back it might have changed her mind about not returning.
"You look at our team and go 'wow, our team could be really, really good next year if we have Tuck,'" Auriemma said. "At the same time, what more does she owe us? What more does she owe this program? The fact that she is choosing to do, I look at it as she is not leaving UConn, she is joining something else. She is not running away from anything. I kidded somebody and said I wonder if her decision would be different if Mo and Stewie were coming back, that might make a difference but in her heart she knows it is time and we are all behind all the now. "
Jefferson, Stewart and Tuck are the first classmates to win four national titles and now the first ones entered into the Huskies of Honor as well.
"We became really close and done everything together since we came here so I don't see any way to go out," Tuck said.
Stewart believes it is the perfect ending to an unforgettable four-year run with her classmates.
"It is like everything else that has been going on with the three of us, you really can't picture it any other way - to win four, to be recognized in the Huskies of Honor, to be leaving together, we do things as one, we act as one," Stewart said.
"She didn't know, we didn't know that this is going to happen but for her to be recognized like this after she said she is going to the WNBA is a nice way to cap everything off. When you have a decision like that to make, it is not an easy one but she didn't let it get in the way of our team's priorities and what we were trying to do."
GENO SHUTS DOWN NBA RUMORS
A report in the Sporting News speculating that Auriemma would "he’d like to try the NBA eventually, either head coaching or part of a staff at first. Not tomorrow, but I think it is a matter of when and not if" is news to Auriemma.
"That came out of the blue, I have no idea where that came from," Auriemma said. "Patrick (McKenna, UConn's women's basketball sports information director) showed it to me this morning and I don't know where that came from. You hear stuff all the time, for all I know it could be a guy whose brother or sister coaches at another school."
Then Auriemma had some fun with the report.
"My agent said don't dismiss the rumors, it will help you in contract negotiations," Auriemma said. "I told somebody, I am too young to coach in the NBA. Pete Carril didn't go until he was 66 so I still have a couple more years."
So is Auriemma considering walking away while he's on top?
"No," Auriemma said. "On October 15 I might when I show up and they aren't at practice."