CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Rayjon Tucker spent the spring making a name for himself in recruiting circles. The biggest reason why is his athleticism. A 6-foot-5 wing, Tucker has the kind of strength and explosiveness that allows him to finish above the rim, over defenders, through contact and … well, all of the above, which also has made Tucker a favorite of the mixtape cameramen.
Earlier this spring, before his play in the UA Association AAU tournaments, Tucker was listing offers from schools like Abilene Christian and Presbyterian. This week? He had to postpone an unofficial visit to UNC because he was making a trip to the NBPA Top 100 Camp.
So would you believe that Tucker, a member of the Class of 2015, has only been playing basketball seriously for two years?
“I didn’t start concentrating on basketball until my sophomore year,” said Tucker, a former wide receiver and free safety whose father played football at Western Carolina. “I played, but I was more focused on football than basketball so if I wasn’t doing something right, I wasn’t worried.”
That changed after his freshman season, however, as Tucker got tired of the physicality on the gridiron.
“I just got tired of all the pounding on my body,” he said. “I just really love basketball in my heart more than I love football. My dad was a football player, so it would have just fit. I just like the hardwood.”
“My dad was fine with it, he always told me he supported me in whatever I do, it’s my life and my decision. He didn’t want to live his dreams through me.”
That meant Rayjon would be chasing his hardwood dreams, and after a successful spring, he’s gone from a relative unknown prospect from Charlotte, N.C., to a guy that is going to have a chance to play in the ACC. Boston College has offered him a scholarship, as has Virginia Tech; Tucker said that Buzz Williams has been recruiting him the hardest of late. He’s visited Clemson but doesn’t yet have an offer on the table from the Tigers, and in addition to trying to set up a visit with UNC he is also talking with N.C. State to get over to Raleigh and see their campus. Tucker also said that VCU has been showing him quite a bit of interest.
“It’s exciting,” he said, and while no one would blame a high school junior for being excited about getting phone calls from coaches at the biggest schools in his home state, Tucker is self-aware enough to understand that he still has strengths and weaknesses on the court. He realizes that his strengths like in his natural athletic ability. He can jump, he can defend, he plays hard, he’s a terror around the rim.
But he’s not satisfied simply being a guy that is featured in highlight videos on youtube.
“I’m always looking improvement in my game, dribbling and shooting. I’m just looking to get better,” he said. “MY parents and my coach just tell me to stay humble. Stay hungry, because I haven’t arrived yet.”
For a team that has been surviving on jumpshooting for far too much of their offense, Azubuike’s arrival could not have come at a better time. The 6-foot-10 center went for 26 points on 13-for-17 shooting – oddly enough, he didn’t get to the foul line a single time – and added nine boards, five of which were on the offensive end.
Azubuike also made the game-saving play in the final seconds, blocking a shot by James Palmer and tracking down the loose ball to preserve the win.
Saturday College Basketball Recap: Trae Young shines, comebacks galore, five ranked teams lose
Trae Young is well on his ways towards becoming college basketball’s best and most exciting story this season. Entering Saturday, he was leading the nation averaging 28.8 points and third nationally in assists, averaging 8.8 per game. Those numbers are going to go up, as the diminutive freshman went for 29 points and 10 assists as Oklahoma went into Intrust Bank Arena and knocked off No. 3 Wichita State, 91-83.
That gym is one of the toughest gyms in America to leave with a win. And Wichita State, traditionally, is one of college basketball’s toughest teams, one of the best defensive units in the sport.
And Young torched them.
He had 21 points and seven assists by halftime, as the Sooners jumped out to a 54-39 lead. What was billed as a matchup between two of the nation’s best point guards devolved into Young’s coming out party on national television. Here’s the big question to ask now: Just how good is this Oklahoma team if Trae Young is college basketball’s latest superstar?
THE REST OF SATURDAY’S STARS
UDOKA AZUBUIKE, Kansas: The lone big man on the Kansas roster played his best game as a collegian on Saturday night. He finished with 26 points – on 13-for-17 shooting, he didn’t even attempt a free throw – and nine boards, but more importantly he blocked a James Palmer shot with less than ten seconds left to help Kansas hold on to a 73-72 win in Lincoln.
JUWAN MORGAN, Indiana: Morgan had a career-high 34 points to go along with 11 boards as the Hoosiers came-from-behind to knock off No. 18 Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic. Morgan scored Indiana’s last 12 points in regulation and eight of their 15 in overtime. With 11 seconds left, he scored an and-one with Indiana down three, and after the Hoosiers got an offensive rebound, threw down the game-winning dunk.
TYUS BATTLE and OSHAE BRISSETT, Syracuse: Battle finished with 29 points and Brissett scored 24 of his career-high 25 points and grabbed 10 of his career-high 14 boards in the second half and overtime of an 86-79 Syracuse win. The Orange were down by as many as 13 points in the second half on the road and still managed to get a win over their rivals.
QUADE GREEN, Kentucky: Green had 17 points and five assists as No. 8 Kentucky knocked off Virginia Tech, 93-86, in Rupp Arena on Saturday, but what was most impressive is that Green did it while wearing a sweet pair of shades to protect an injured eye.
TEAM OF THE DAY
For the first time in four years, Rutgers is the pride of New Jersey. Playing in front of a packed house at the RAC, Rutgers came from 13 points down to knock off No. 15 Seton Hall, 71-65. Corey Sanders led the way with 22 points for the Scarlet Knights, who used a 17-2 run to close out the game after the Pirates took a 63-54 lead with six minutes left.
GAME OF THE DAY
There were a number to choose from today. Virginia Tech-Kentucky was unexpectedly thrilling. St. Bonaventure won on a buzzer-beater.
And then there were the comebacks.
North Dakota had a buzzer-beater force overtime at No. 12 Gonzaga after the Zags erased a nine-point deficit in the final four minutes. Indiana’s comeback against No. 18 Notre Dame was wild, even if much of the game itself was boring. Syracuse was down 13 in the second half and won in overtime. Rutgers was down nine with six minutes left and won. And No. 10 Xavier? All they did was erase a 22-point deficit in the final 14:25 to win.
Should I mention the insanity of what happened with No. 19 Florida State and No. 22 Florida, losing by a total of three points in the same building on the same day to unranked opponents?
But for my money, the best game that we saw on Saturday was between No. 13 Kansas and Nebraska. The Huskers desperately needed a win at home to bolster their non-conference résumé while the Jayhawks were looking to snap a two-game losing streak.
Thanks to Svi Mykhailiuk:
Kansas Game Winning ATO Ballscreen Set. Backscreen takes hedge man away, allowing ballhandler to get downhill: pic.twitter.com/2gUyqcoL2F
Because that is precisely what happened on Saturday at Value City Arena as Ohio State was playing Appalachian State. Early in the second half, an exhaust fan at a concession stand failed, which resulted in the fire alarm getting triggered and the arena being cleared.
It was a scary moment, but it was also an incident that was handled precisely the way it is supposed to be handled.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW?
It was a good day for the guys that can’t shoot in the state of Kentucky. Kentucky, ranked No. 8 in the country and last in the percentage of points they get from beyond the arc, went 11-for-22 from three as they knocked off a good Virginia Tech team that leads the nation in three-point percentage. Then there’s Louisville, who beat Memphis in Madison Square Garden on the back of a 14-for-26 three-point shooting performance.
Saturday was not a good day for the basketball teams in the Sunshine State. It started with No. 19 Florida State, who suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of Oklahoma State in the first game of a double-header. In the second game, No. 22 Florida lost for the fourth time in their last five games, as they allowed Clemson to pick up their best win of the season.
It looked like it was going to be a really bad day for No. 10 Xavier, who trailed East Tennessee State at home, 51-29, with 14:25 left on Saturday afternoon. The Musketeers proceeded to go on a 39-15 run to end the game, winning 68-66 and leaving with nothing more than a warning for why it’s dangerous to take any team lightly.
Kyle Washington had 19 points and Gary Clark chipped in 10 points, 11 boards, four assists, three steals and three blocks for No. 25 Cincinnati in a 77-63 win at UCLA.
No. 23 Arizona cruised to another road win, this time at New Mexico, thanks to 24 points from Rawle Alkins, playing his second game since returning from a broken foot.
No. 18 Purdue cruised to an 82-67 win over Butler in the opener of the Crossroads Classic. Carsen Edwards led the way with 18 points.
VIDEO: St. Bonaventure beats Vermont on Matt Mobley buzzer-beater
The game was eventually continued, and it appears that the incident was nothing more than the fire alarm working the way that it is supposed to. From a statement released by Ohio State: “Tonight’s event was interrupted by a failure on an exhaust fan. The fan shut off and allowed the smoke from a concession stand to enter the fresh air return on one of our air handlers and activated one of our smoke detectors. The building systems worked as they were designed and we were able to reset the alarm, repair the exhaust and return to normal operations.”
SUNRISE, Fla. — Marcquise Reed threw a 75-foot pass to Elijah Thomas for a dunk that put Clemson ahead to stay with 37 seconds left, and the Tigers rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half Saturday to beat No. 22 Florida 71-69 in the Orange Bowl Classic.
With Clemson trailing 68-67, Reed rebounded a missed 3-point attempt by KeVaughn Allen and threw a football-style pass from one free-throw lane to the other, hitting Thomas on the run for an easy score.
Clemson (9-1) beat a ranked team for only the eighth time in school history and continued its best start since 2008. Florida (6-4) lost for the fourth time in the past five games.
The Tigers won despite having a point taken off the scoreboard with 4 seconds left. Thomas’ free throw put Clemson ahead 70-68, but the point was wiped out when the officials realized it was Reed who had been fouled.
Reed then made two free throws to help seal the win. He finished with 22 points, six assists and five rebounds.
Gabe DeVoe added 19 points and six rebounds for the Tigers, who shot 51 percent. Clemson coach Brad Brownell earned his 300th victory.
Jalen Hudson scored the Gators’ first 12 points and finished with 23.
Egor Koulechov sank a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Gators a 40-33 halftime lead, and they were up 47-35 early in the second half. Clemson took its first lead since 4 minutes into the game when DeVoe sank a 3-pointer to make it 67-66.
The meeting was the first between the teams since 1957.
No. 19 Florida State lost to Oklahoma State 71-70 in the first game of the doubleheader.
Florida coach Mike White has been unhappy with his team’s transition defense. The Gators allowed only seven fast-break points, but that included Thomas’ decisive dunk.
The Gators play host to James Madison on Wednesday.