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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Former UConn star Morgan Tuck trying to remain positive

Morgan Tuck put on a happy face as she met with the media before Friday night's win over Phoenix, a victory that moved the Connecticut Sun into a tie for eighth place in the WNBA standings.

In the eight years Tuck played at Bolingbrook High School and UConn, her teams combined for a 259-14 record with eight of those losses coming in her freshman season of high school and college.

When she was getting the most playing time during her rookie season with the WNBA's Connecticut Sun, it was usually coming in a losing cause. In one of the most bizarre statistics you will find considering how much of a winner Tuck has been in her basketball career, the Sun are 6-17 when Tuck plays at least 10 minutes per game and 5-0 when she plays fewer than 10 minutes or didn't play at all.

Early in the season with a disgruntled Kelsey Bone on the team, the Sun's effort level seemed to be on par with what you might see from East Carolina. Now that Bone has been shipped off to Phoenix in a trade that brought back the energetic and athletic Courtney Williams, Connecticut is winning and playing as hard as any team in the league. In a cruel twist of fate, Tuck will be forced to watch the rest of the season after tearing the ACL in her left knee (not the knee that she has had so much trouble with over the years) just as her team is playing with the type of winning attitude that she was accustomed to in high school and college.

Tuck was in line to see her playing time increase following the trade of Bone and it would have been valuable for her to get the experience on the court for the rest of her rookie season. Instead, she is in the process of figuring out when her latest knee surgery will take place.

"I guess they had to even out with injuries," Tuck said. "Anytime you get hurt and you have a history of getting hurt where you have miss game, it just sucks. The good part is I get to stay around my teammates, I get to travel. We are playing really well so hopefully we can continue to do that.

"I am trying to have the right mindset to just stay positive but it is hard to do that when the only reason I have been out of basketball is for my knees so I am trying to get there, try to make sure I look at the positive parts.

"It is really frustrating but I have a really good family/friends support system. I know everything happens for a reason, God has a plan for me. I may not like what happens but I know everything happens for a reason.

Tuck averaged 7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 16.7 minutes per game as a rookie.

"I wasn't super excited about how I was playing but I was just trying to go out there and play hard," Tuck said. "I think that was my biggest thing."

It is rather ironic that both of the Sun's lottery picks from April's WNBA Draft will be sidelined for the rest of the season. Rachel Banham is already making progress in her recovery from knee surgery and is hoping to play overseas by late December or January while Tuck believes she will be ready for the start of the 2017 WNBA season.

"She's had ACLs and had to go back in there," Tuck said. "She's had her fair share of surgeries so I think when you have somebody who is going through it with you, it is somewhat helpful because you don't feel like you are by yourself. When we come back, it will be good for ourselves and be happy for each other because we knew what we went through."

The good news is the future appears bright for the Sun.

Williams is averaging 6.9 points and 3.2 rebounds per game in 13 contests with the Sun. The 5-foot-8 Williams is averaging 8.75 rebounds per 40 minutes which is just under the 9.1 mark registered by the 6-foot-5 Bone in her 14 games with Connecticut which says plenty about both players.

Bone's departure has made  a huge difference in the locker room as even some of the other veterans who seemed to be struggling to give their full effort earlier in the season appear to have been reenergized since the trade. As a result, Connecticut has an 8-4 record since the start of July which heading into today's action was tied for the second-best mark in the WNBA only behind Minnesota 10-2 record (with both losses coming to the Sun).

Another aspect of the trade is that rookie Jonquel Jones went from averaging 4.3 points in 10.9 minutes in the 14 games Bone was with the Sun to 7.4 points and 15.6 minutes per game. She improved her field-goal numbers from 40 percent to 55.7 percent since the trade.

On the court, the biggest difference has shown up on the defensive end. In the first 14 games of the season Connecticut opponents were averaging 88 points per game while shooting nearly 48 percent from the field. In the last 14 games, the numbers dropped to 84.4 PPG and a 44.2 field-goal percentage.

More help could be on the way with the Sun also acquiring former Oregon star Jillian Alleyne and San Antonio's second-round pick, which would be the top pick in the second round if the draft were held today. Also, the first-round pick the Sun sent to Los Angeles in the trade which brought Jones to the Sun, looked like a lock to be a lottery selection not that long ago. With the Sun tied for eighth heading into today's action, there's a decent chance that the pick won't be a lottery selection.

Regardless of what happens with those two aforementioned draft picks, there is reason for optimism for the Sun and their fans.

"Our group of rookies is a really good group so hopefully we will be staying together for a long time and we will be good," Tuck said.

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