Don’t give up on your dream.
But if you do get discouraged, check out this story about a White Bear Lake graduate.
Jade Tucker’s number one passion, basketball, was snatched away from her during her senior year four years ago. Or so it seemed at the time.
“My senior year, after tryouts, I was told there was no spot for me on the team,” Tucker said.
The six-foot player was one of two seniors cut by coach Jeremy Post from a team that would finish 25-4 that season.
“My world collapsed,” Tucker says now.
She pulled all the basketball posters off the walls of her room, and stuffed all her White Bear Lake basketball memorabilia and trophies into a bag in the corner.
“I didn’t want to see them anymore.”
She had played since elementary school.
“Not having basketball any more, I was devastated. I missed it so much, especially not being around a team for the first time.”
And yet, Tucker stuck with it.
And she recently wrapped up a satisfying college career as a captain on a good small-college team, Wisconsin-Superior.
“Every practice, every game, these last four years, have all been a bonus for me,” Tucker said, reciting her stock answer when people mentioned to her this season that it must be hard knowing basketball will soon be over.
Tucker is grateful that UW-Superior coach Don Mulhern, whose attention she had attracted in AAU ball the previous summer, stood by her.
A couple days after the shock of being cut, she e-mailed Mulhern to tell him the news, adding that she would understand if he no longer wanted to recruit her.
Nothing doing, Mulhern responded.
“I told her, absolutely, yes, I still want you to come, ” Mulhern recounted in an interview. “I knew she was a good athlete with potential — and a good student.”
Mulhern’s instincts proved correct.
“She became a captain. The kids look up to her. She is the epitome of the student athlete,” said Mulhern, who coached Tucker three years before moving to coach St. Catherine’s in St. Paul this season.
Mulhern urged Tucker to find a place to play. She joined the White Bear Lake intramural league and rediscovered “how much fun basketball was, without the pressure” of trying to impress coaches.
“I became a normal high school student, and got my first job, as usher at Marcus Theatre,” Tucker said. She stayed at Marcus two years into her college career.
UW-Superior plays in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC), a lower level of basketball than the more familiar Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). The Yellowjackets have won the UMAC basketball title the last three years but lost right away in the NCAA Division 3 playoffs.
In that setting, Tucker was able to work her way up to a varsity role. “I made progress every year,” Tucker said. Superior has a JV team that was ideal for her to break in. Her junior year, she got into the regular varsity rotation, off the bench. “My senior year I was voted a captain,” she said. “Another girl had graduated early and I took her spot as a starter.”
As a starter this winter, the left-handed shooter averaged 6.1 points and 4.5 rebounds, and shot 51 percent, for a 23-5 team that was rotating 10 players in and out. Previously in her career, she got into seven varsity games as a freshman, 17 as a sophomore and all 28 as a junior, when she averaged 3.2 points and 2.6 rebounds.
Tucker had a string of memorable games in late January, notching 14 points in a 77-72 win over Minnesota- Morris, 11 points in a 77-28 win over Northland College, and 13 points and 11 rebounds (her first and only double-double) in an 87-71 win over Martin Luther College.
Not bad for a kid cut from her high school team.
Zach Otto-Fisher, head coach this year after assisting Mulhern last year, praised Tucker as “the type of student athlete we tell recruits and parents about. I wish we had 15 Jade’s to represent our team and community.”
Tucker, he said, organizes the summer leagues for teammates. She picks people up on bad days. She leads by example. She wants to be told what to work on, then does it. She always stayed after practice to hone such skills and post moves and 15-foot jumpers.
“Since day one of meeting Jade, I told her she was going to change the world. She has such a big heart, motivation, and drive, not only to be a good person herself, but to make others around her better.”
Tucker said she never spoke with Post after losing her spot on the team, but the Bears coach is elated that things worked out for her.
“I’m very happy for Jade. She is one of the best kids I have ever coached,” Post said.
“Some kids peak in ninth grade, and some don’t come into their own until after high school.”
Post said he had four or five scholarship athletes in the same position that year.
“I told her she was just starting to figure out how to be an effective player, and that she could start for many other teams in our conference. I told her not to give up on her dream to play college basketball, because she absolutely was good enough.”
Majoring in social work, Tucker has a 3.7 GPA and has made dean’s list each semester. She’s especially interested in the reproductive justice field of social work, and hopes to be “working on policy and legislation.”
She will don the cap and gown and walk with her class in May, and graduate in August. And when she fills out job applications, she can, happily, list captain of her college basketball team on her resume.