Talk hoops all year long in Luke Winn's blog, a journal of commentary, news and reader-driven discussions about the college game.
8/16/2006 08:00:00 AM
Blog Q&A With ... Wisconsin's Alando Tucker
Alando Tucker, masked gladiator.
As the second installment in a series of the blog's summer Q&As, I chatted with Wisconsin forward Alando Tucker, whose Badgers leave Thursday for a 10-day tour of Italy. Tucker, a fifth-year senior with a massive vertical leap (38 inches), was an All-Big Ten pick in 2005-06. He's the leading scorer (20.0 points per game) on a UW team that could begin the season in the top 10.
SI: Most kids are just moving back to school this week, and you're leaving for Europe. Pretty nice deal. What's the best non-basketball thing on your itinerary?
Alando Tucker: I've never been out of the country before, so it's really exciting. Especially that we're going to the Coliseum. I always joke around with my coaches and say, "I'm a gladiator" -- like, if I'm going hard and I throw down a dunk, I'll yell it out -- and to be able to be there, where the real gladiators were, will be a real experience.
SI: Do you think real gladiators wore clear masks [like the one you wore most of last season after breaking your nose on Nov. 29]?
AT: Ha. Probably not. I guess I'm a modernized gladiator.
SI: What did you do with that thing once you finally got to take it off? Smash it, or retire it up on a wall somewhere?
AT: Actually, I had surgery this summer to straighten my septum, because when I broke my nose, my septum was pushed over and it was hard for me to breathe. So I had to keep the mask and wear it up until July. The school still wants to hold on to it, in case something else happens.
SI: And what do you want to do with it?
AT: We can drop a 100-pound dumbbell on it and crush it. I just don't want to see it anymore.
SI: I read a pretty stunning quote from you recently, in which you said you actually couldn't breathe out of your nose at all for the last 27 games of the '05-06 season. What does that feel like? And how happy are you after that septum surgery?
AT: After I broke my nose [against Wake Forest], it was really tough for me. I was only breathing through my mouth, which was causing me to feel exhausted a lot quicker. Doing everything on the floor was harder for me. It's so much easier now. I'm laughing a lot. I'm more energetic. I'm able to get up and down the court without always putting my hands on my knees and looking like I'm dead.
SI: You're often called the most underrated player in the Big Ten, and Wisconsin the most underrated team. Is this the year that underrated stuff finally gets dropped, and you're simply looked at as one of the best in the whole country?
AT: This is the team that will really grab some eyes across the nation. I've been organizing the pickup games all summer, and I've seen the components we have. There's a lot more depth in the post, with Marcus Landry and [Greg] Stiemsma back. We're getting them back in the flow [after both players were ruled academically ineligible for the second semester in '05-06]. There's depth at the guard postion, which is what we needed. We have all the pieces to be a more athletic team that pushes the ball up and doesn't lull people to sleep during games -- like some people like to say we do.
SI: Your freshman guards -- Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon -- may not be able to go to Italy with you, but how are they looking so far in the summer? They're two of the bigger recruits to come to UW in a while.
AT: They can both definitely be in the mix. Hughes can really handle the ball. He's a true point guard who makes good decisions and goes strong to the basket. He has the body of a sophomore or junior already. Bohannon surprised me; coming in I thought he was just going to be a shooter. And he can shoot -- but he can also handle the ball better than most people give him credit for, and he can finish slashing to the hole.
SI: We'll switch away from hoops for the last Q. Wisconsin was named the No. 1 party school in the nation by Playboy this offseason. And this is your fifth year there. So where are your choice spots?
AT: The spot everybody likes to meet up at is the Kollege Klub, the "KK." A lot of hockey, and basketball players go there -- we're close to the hockey team [which beat Boston College for the 2006 NCAA title in April]. Or Monday's on State Street, that's the other one we hit up a lot.
SI: So basketball and hockey, huh? You guys don't hold a grudge because your floor at the Kohl Center gets lifted for an ice rink on a regular basis?
AT: No way. We watch them as much as we can, and give them support. As long as you're sharing a floor with national champs, it's not a problem.
Finally, one comments-section question for blog readers: Is this Tucker and Wisconsin's year in the Big Ten, or will Greg Oden & Co. take the league by storm in their freshman season? Share your thoughts below.
Besides being a terrific talent and hardworker, Tucker doesn't get enough credit for being the spokesperson of UW Basketball. It seems as if he's been around forever, but even as a true freshman he displayed incredibly maturity and was an atriculate speaker. Whether it's in the NBA or not, Tucker will be successful.
Oh yeah, not being able to breathe out of your nose might be an explanation for struggles at the stripe.
Wisconsin wins the Big Ten. If I read another "Greg Oden will be the most dominant big man in college basketball the second he steps onto the court" comment from a sportswriter, I will cry.
Wisconsin has players who have proven themselves, a great coach, and one of the best home courts in the sport. Ohio State will no doubt be a good team, but they are too reliant on freshmen who have not proven a single thing at the college level. Maybe Oden will live up to the hype, and maybe he won't.
greg oden will be the most dominant big man in the big ten, if not the nation, and ohio state will beat wisconsin, even if oden isnt what they all say he is. this is because of the other recruits in ohio states class. and dont forget that ohio state wasnt that bad last year.
I haven't analyzed the entire Big Ten to be able to make definitive comparisons between Wisconsin and everyone else (although it seems that there are going to be a lot of young teams). However, if the "experts" are touting the Badgers as a possible conference champion, they must be terrific. After all, most preseason prognosticators pick them for the middle of the pack every year, and all they do is make it to Sweet Sixteens, Elite Eights, and Final Fours.
The Big Ten is the toughest conference in college basketball (I didn't say best, but top to bottom definitely the toughest). Because they have the best coach in the country, they will be able to "survive" better than OSU or the other contenders. Look for Wisconsin to come out on top.
First off, spell his name right. Second, there was another Wildcat team that bounced you from the NCAA last year the same way AZ beat UW. AZ had better guard play vs. Bucky, and that was evident. But if you would have read Mr. Tucker's interview, you would have seen that they are much deeper and a ton more athletic at that position this year. They have two key players coming back that they sorely missed down the stretch last seaon. And as far as your team's run last tourney, Villanova's two guards of Foye and Ray dropped 50 on you for a taste of your own medicine. We'll see ya in the Elite Eight while you're gone in the first or second round like Lute loves to normally do.
Now that Tucker can breathe he might score 24 ppg. If Butch develops any kind of post game, he's good 13-15 ppg. Chris Rock is a streaky shooter (better suited to play the 2), but can heat up and rain treys.
The 2 X Factor players on the squad are Flowers and Stiemsma. Flowers is a solid wing defender, makes good decisions (should run the point), and is developing as a shooter. Stiemsma has the potential to be one of the best interior defenders and shot blockers in the Big 10 (can probably single cover Oden). If those two continue to develop, and either one of our highly touted freshman guards can develop into a reliable third guard, Wisco will have enough horses to not just be respected but feared. Bo is the man and the squad will evolve from a regional power into a national power. This is a year to be Grateful for Red!
alando is the truth, thats my guy actually. i talk to him all the time. he real humble about his. we go back to playin high school ball against each other. I played for Hillcrest and he played for Lockport. Im lookin foward to a great season from him this year. Much love dawg, #42 Tim Parham UMES c/o '06
The Marquette and Pitt games early on will go a long way to measuring where this Badger team stands.
And as always, staying healthy will be of concern for them as well the rest of the Big Ten contenders.
As for the Big Ten tournament, "Who cares?" Until the Big Ten Commitee comes to their senses and moves the game(s) to an earlier time slot so they have a bearing on the NCAA tournament seedings, it's relatively meaningless for National Championship caliber teams of the Big Ten. Only use is to get a bubble team squeaked into 'The Big Dance'.