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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Former UConn star Tuck thrilled to remain in Connecticut

Not every star who rolls off the assembly line at UConn is completely enamored at the prospect of remaining in Connecticut as a professional.

Four years of living under the microscope can wear on even the most jovial type of person and getting to chance to spread the wings out of the glare of the spotlight can be the best thing to happen to many former Huskies.

However, Morgan Tuck is embracing her role as not only the top draft pick of the Connecticut Sun but a player likely to have attention paid to her due to her UConn roots.

"I think it is something that everybody would want," Tuck said at Thursday's Connecticut Sun media day event at Mohegan Sun Arena. "They want to go as high as they could in the draft, you are going to have high expectations. For me, I am not going to take this as 'I don't want this pressure of having to do well.' I want to be great, I want to be the best that I can be so I am going to try to use that to try to work harder."

Tuck has come to Sun games in the past. A season ago she was in the stands when Los Angeles came to town to see not only her former UConn teammate (and now current fellow Connecticut Sun team member) Kelly Faris but to see UConn graduate assistant coach Jasmine Lister play for the visiting Sparks.

Likely many of UConn's returning players will make the drive down to see Tuck play this season.

"It is kind of weird. I think once we start getting into games (it will sink in)," Tuck said. "It is cool that my old teammates can come and see me play. We came to the LA/Connecticut game so now they will be doing the same thing so it is kind of weird to think about."

Tuck has already impressed her coaches and teammates with her professional attitude and ability to impact the game in a variety of areas. Her versatility could be her calling card in the early stages of her professional career.

"Here I need to use my versatility way more than I did (at UConn)," Tuck said. "I think towards the end of the season I had to use it more because we were playing against teams with big post players but that is going to be more of how I try to play here just even now I am the smallest post on the team so for me it is really trying to focus on my versatility every possession done.

"I feel like I played really well (in the NCAA tournament) especially coming off that February run I had that was terrible so it really felt good to end on the right note and I am definitely going to try to carry it through to the season."

Since she only appeared in eight games as a sophomore Tuck was eligible to return to UConn next season where she likely would have been the No. 1 offensive option more often than at any other time in her collegiate career. Before the season Tuck said her intention was to return next season but after giving it much thought, she made the decision to declare for the draft. With a little and I do mean little down time since the end of the college season Tuck is confident she made the right decision.

"The way everything worked out and the way everything is working out, I think it was the best decision," Tuck said.

Tuck was inducted into the Huskies of Honor one day after helping UConn win an unprecedented fourth straight national title. Then came the draft preparations, the final work so she can graduate as well as moving her stuff out of her apartment to the place she is currently living in.

"It has been crazy," Tuck said. "It has calmed down a little bit now because we are in more of a routine of going to practice but it was crazy after the season ended, there was a lot of stuff that had to get done in a short amount of time. It has been great. I couldn't ask for a better experience for the last month, it's been the best time I've had in my life. "

Speaking of a hectic schedule, just imagine how things have been for Tuck's former UConn teammate Breanna Stewart who was introduced as part of the 2016 Olympic team yesterday in New York.

"It is crazy that she is really going to play in the Olympics," Tuck said. "I think it is literally every kid who plays the sport is to play in the Olympics. For her to be able to do that, being the youngest on the team just shows how great of a player she is. I talked to her about it and she didn't even bring it up when we were talking, she is super humble."

Tuck and Stewart will be reunited on May 28 when Tuck's Connecticut Sun plays at Stewart's Seattle Storm squad. She won't have to wait that long to see former teammate Moriah Jefferson, now a rookie with the San Antonio Stars since the Stars will play exhibition games on May 4 and 5 at Mohegan Sun Arena with the latter game coming against the Sun.

"In an actual game, I don't think we've ever played against each other," Tuck said. "It helps that we won't be guarding each other but it definitely is going to be weird.

"It's been a lot going on. It is kind of crazy what we've been able to do. I wish we could still be on the same team but it definitely has helped us quite a bit being able to do it together is the best possible thing we could do."

The departure of Stewart, Jefferson and Tuck leave three major holes to fill. Incoming freshmen Molly Bent, Crystal Dangerfield and Kyla Irwin won't be expected to replace the production of UConn's Big Three but there will still plenty of eyes on them. So what advice would Tuck give them?

"To work hard and try to do whatever you can to help the team win," Tuck said. "That is what us three did, when we were needed to step up as leaders we kind of did that. I would tell them to buy into the system, buy into what the coaches are telling  you because they obviously know what they are doing. I think they have to have fun with it but literally do whatever they need to do to make sure the team is going to be good.

"I think the team is taking it as a challenge because a lot of people are saying we aren't going to be as good but it wasn't just us this out there playing, we had a whole team and in our four years, it wasn't just us three. Our freshman year we weren't the ones carrying the team, they have to take it as a challenge. They can still be a great team, they can still win a national championship and Coach (Geno Auriemma) is going to make sure he gets them ready to do that."

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