Despite a rocky season thus far for Depaul, there is plenty of reason to be hopeful for the future if you are a Blue Demons fan, thanks to the exploits displayed by athletic freshman Dar Tucker
. While by no means as heralded as many of the other members of this talented freshman class, Tuckers success hasnt exactly been a complete shock either. Ranked #45 in the class of 2007 by Rivals, the swingman has made an immediate impact despite playing only 22 minutes per game. Currently he ranks 8th amongst all freshman in scoring per 40 minutes adjusted pace at 22.9 points.
Even at this early point in his career, the question of what position will he play is being asked of Tucker. He primarily lines up as a small forward for Depaul, but his frame clearly makes him a candidate to play the off guard spot at the next level. Even as a two, though, he is somewhat undersized at just 64, and as a 31.1% shooter from beyond the arc, he will need to improve his perimeter shooting to be considered a consistent scoring threat. What Tucker does have going for him is his tremendous athleticism. He has an explosive vertical jump, great open floor speed and a terrific first step.
Tucker is a versatile offensive player, getting his touches in a variety of scenarios. A lefty, Tucker has nice form on his shot and a quick release; if defenders lose him behind the arc for even a second he will fire away. While his form is encouraging, his tendency to force shots isnt. Tucker attempts over five three-pointers per game, and as previously mentioned is only a 31.1% shooter from deep. From what we see of his mechanics he has all the makings of being a solid threat from the outside, the biggest key now is learning when to shoot and when not to. Tucker has a tendency to force a lot of contested shots rather than looking for a better option.
The majority of Tuckers shots come when he is attacking the basket. He shows some nice ability to pull up from mid-range, able to combine a quick first step with the ability to stop on a dime. Tuckers ability to change speeds typically gives him all the space he needs to get off his shot. He is equally as dangerous when he decides to attack all the way to the rim. Tucker is explosive enough to elevate with almost any defender in the country when he gets a head of steam going. He exhibits great body control and fair touch around the hoop. What is really holding Tucker back though are his rudimentary ball-handling skills, being unable to go left on a consistent basis, and not looking very advanced with his shot-creating ability. Despite possessing the ability to be a lights out finisher around the rim, he does struggle at times since defenders can play him to his right side.
At this point, Tucker is at his most dangerous in the transition game. He struggles a little bit with his ball-handling skills, so you wont often see him leading a break, but he is a constant threat when he is able to get out and run. He shows a real knack for knowing when his teammates are going to come away with defensive rebounds, and when to leak out of the pack. Tucker is a big time finisher when teammates get him the ball on the break. It isnt uncommon to see him pull off windmill jams when he is ahead of the defense, and it isnt often you see a player of Tuckers size be at the receiving end of so many alley-oops.
Where Tucker has been surprisingly impressive this season is on the offensive glass. He averages less than five rebounds per game, but two of them come at the offensive end. Tuckers 3.6 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes is a testament to not only his athleticism but his hustle as well. Tucker is the type of guard that defenses cant ignore on the perimeter when shots go up. On many occasions where defenders havent boxed him on the outside, he has come flying down the lane for a tap in or emphatic put-back dunk.
Defensively, Tucker has room to improve. As is common amongst physically talented freshman, Tucker has a tendency to get a little overzealous and thus more seasoned players are able to exploit his aggressiveness. He does a fairly good job of closing out on perimeter shooters, but inexplicably he often flies out with his hands at his sides, not actually contesting the shots. He also has a tendency to look a little out of control, so often a head fake is enough to shake Tucker when spotting up. DePaul has played a decent amount of zone this season, but from what we have seen of Tucker, in man-to-man situations he shows promise. He has good lateral quickness, excellent length and active hands, but has a tendency to lose his defender sometimes. Tucker also struggles sticking with his man coming off of screens, especially when his man fades back to spot up.
At this point Tucker is caught somewhere between athlete and basketball player. He already shows polish in certain aspects of his game, particularly with his shooting mechanics, the key now is improving his decision making. Clearly Tucker is already showing the potential to be a big time scorer at the college level, and hes doing it against strong competition. His most recent offensive outburst came against Louisville in a game where he dropped 22 points in just 25 minutes of play. No matter how many points he scores, though, Tucker is always going to have doubters because of his size. His perimeter shooting will have to improve since it is unlikely he could make a living as just a slashing guard in the NBA with his undersized frame. For now though, there is plenty of potential already being shown for Tucker to emerge as a top flight backcourt player in the Big East next season.