When Byron Tucker made the Potomac High School varsity basketball team, he was a 5-foot-10 freshman, lightning fast and a smooth dribbler. Three years later, he is still a gifted ball handler, but at 6-9 1/2, his leaping and scoring ability have attracted national attention.
Tucker, who led the Falconers summer basketball league at Central High School in scoring with an average of 27 points per game, would like to attend North Carolina State a year from now after leading Potomac to an unbeaten season this winter.
Tucker had to learn basketball the hard way, losing in one-on-one games to his older brother Bryan, a 1985 All-Met selection. Bryan, who is 6-10 1/2, recently transferred from the University of the District of Columbia to Pratt Junior College in Kansas.
"Everybody always tried to compare me and him, but when I was in the ninth grade he Bryan was 6-8 and I was only 5-10, so there wasn't too much of a big comparison," said Byron. "We used to go out and play ball and he would always win, making it tough on me. But he taught me how to be more aggressive defensively."
Tucker, who plans on playing the small forward position in college, has been virtually unstoppable this summer, often bringing the ball up the court, faking and then going strong to the basket to slam over anyone standing in his way. Tucker's best game was a 36-point, 18-rebound performance against Largo.
"I like bringing the ball down court because when I go to college, I'm going to play small forward, so I'm glad that I have my dribbling ability down," said Tucker. "When I was 5-8, I was like a guard and, as I started growing, I still kept my dribbling."
"I never imagined that Byron was going to be this tall or as good as his brother because Bryan was so much taller," said Potomac Coach Taft Hickman. "His size has really helped him because he has developed the skills of a player 5-10, but he is 6-10. He is one of the most fluid guys at that size as far as putting the ball on the floor and taking the jump shot."
Tucker uses his finesse to score over bigger players and to take smaller players to the basket. "When I'm playing against somebody bigger than me, I'll take them outside and when they try to put somebody smaller on me, I take them inside," said Tucker. "I'm really at an advantage either way."
Off the court, Tucker's attention to academic skills has put him at an advantage. "I take my academics pretty seriously because that's the only way that I'm going to make it," said Tucker, who has a 2.83 (out of 4.0) grade point average. "Before I go to college I want to go to summer school to get some early credits, so I can make my freshman year easier. Academics are first; basketball will come."
Tucker has devoted the rest of the summer to improving his rebounding average and his aggressiveness in preparation for a run at a Maryland state title next winter.
"I hope that he leads us to the championship with the supporting cast that he has," said Hickman. "If everything falls in place, four years after he finishes high school, I think that you may be looking at a first-round NBA draft choice."