Kelly Kline/Under Armor

Rayjon Tucker excelling after giving up football for hoops

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Kelly Kline/Under Armor

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?

RELATED: Wednesday’s NBPA Top 100 recap | Patience the plans for Tyler Dorsey

“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.

RELATED: Rayjon Tucker is a name to remember

“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.”

“I just gotta keep working.”

VIDEO: Monmouth hits a game-winner, Bench Mob member tries to disrobe

King Rice
AP
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Monmouth used a 17-2 run in the final minutes to beat Rider on Friday night, a win that will keep the Hawks within striking distance of the kind of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should they fall in the MAAC tourney.

The run was capped by star point guard Justin Robinson, who buried this three with three seconds left to put Monmouth up for good, 79-78:

No. 17 Arizona erases double-digit deficit to beat UCLA

Arizona coach Sean Miller reacts to a foul call during the first half of Arizona's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA, Friday, Feb 12, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.

UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.

Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.

All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.

The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.