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Maryland men's basketball season recap: Cliff Tucker

This week, Terrapins Insider will take a look back on the 2009-10 Maryland men’s basketball season from an individual standpoint. We’ll discuss how each player’s year went and look ahead to his role on the team going forward. Readers are encouraged to provide their thoughts in the comments section below or email them to yandas@washpost.com.

Junior guard Cliff Tucker is the kind of player who makes you wonder. For the most part, you know what you’re going to get when you watch Eric Hayes, Landon Milbourne, Sean Mosley and Jordan Williams play. Heck, you pretty much know what you’re going to get from Greivis Vasquez most nights out.

But with Tucker, you never really know. Arguably Maryland’s most athletic and naturally talented player, Tucker has spent his collegiate career befuddling coaches, fans and reporters alike. You see flashes of brilliance, times when it seems Tucker is unstoppable on the court. And then you see Tucker make a series of mental mistakes or you see him slack off for a period of time on the court or you see him looking over his shoulder, wondering when he’ll be called back to the bench.

Several of the reporters on the Maryland beat discussed at different points this season the manner in which Tucker’s minutes were doled out. There were times when Tucker would be pulled from a game seemingly just as he was beginning to pick up some momentum, and that likely speaks to the level of trust Maryland Coach Gary Williams has in Tucker’s ability to remain consistent more than anything else.

When it comes to Tucker, the most telling moment I witnessed this season took place with about 25 seconds left in the first half of Maryland’s regular season finale at Virginia. Tucker was called for a backcourt violation, and Williams immediately motioned for junior guard Adrian Bowie to sub into the game. Assuming that Bowie was coming in to replace him, Tucker began trotting toward the Maryland bench. Williams had to wave Tucker back onto the court. Bowie, in fact, was replacing Eric Hayes.

Much like Bowie, Tucker suffers from wavering confidence. Tucker has admitted on several occasions that at times he is too worried about how many minutes he has played or is going to play. And when that becomes his primary concern, his performance suffers.

But when Tucker lets go of his angst and simply plays, his talent often is tantalizing. He can be a go-to scorer. He can be a stingy defender. He can be a lot of things.

With the departures of seniors Vasquez, Hayes and Milbourne, Maryland will lose 54.7 percent of its point production. Those points will need to be made up somewhere, and Tucker possesses the skill set to assume a larger role in that regard.

But can Tucker develop the ability to move beyond his mistakes and onto the next task at hand? Will he be afforded a leash long enough to do so? Can Tucker tap further into the wealth of talent he appears to possess?

For his and the team’s sake, Maryland followers should hope that the answers to all of those questions are yes.

By Steve Yanda  |  March 30, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Next: Maryland men's basketball season recap: Dino Gregory

Comments

in terms of CT, I think we should expect marked improvement in terms of decision making and play as a senior. Agree that he might have been the most athletically gifted of our backcourt players for the last few seasons - tantalizing is an appropriate word to describe his potential. Do not see him as a team leader, although he will need to develop into a go-to scorer next season. Consistent minutes should help, as well as taking the GV course on off season work-outs and game development. Look to him to raise his scoring averages significantly - especially so early in the year. He has proven he can hit the big shot - to the point where Poopy_ wants his baby. Whats most important is that GW does look at him as a finisher. In GW's world, its a lot more important who is on the court at the end of a tight game moreso than who starts. I think he is the most likely candidate to take on the heavy scoring burden in the flex; somewhere between 11-19 ppg. At the high end of the scale we get another trip to the tournament without drama; at the low-end...well remember last season? In the middle - likely good enough to get us back to the dance. We just don't KNOW yet; we'll learn for sure during next season....like we did with GV.

Likable guy in interviews. Would like to understand whether next year's seniors are on track to graduate like this year's class, but that is justa a personal nit.

Regards -

-hgr

Posted by: HughGRection | March 30, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Tucker should be the go to guy next season. I think hes going to break out and have a huge senior year.

That being said, if he is as inconsistent as he's been over his first 3 years a frosh like Parker or Howard could eat into his minutes.

Posted by: DMoney28 | March 30, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Cliff most importantly needs to learn control. He has the most talent of any of the upperclassmen, but he plays on the edge of insanity more often than not. He always seems to be rushing himself and pushing himself to be something he's not. He will need to improve his ballhandling if he wants to bring the ball up the court like he seemed to want to do on too many occasions this past season. He will also need to learn to be a leader and when to pick his spots. He needs to learn to slow down sometimes and find a pace that's somewhere between trot and sprint.

Cliff Tucker could be a key cog in the success of the Terps next season.

Posted by: Russtinator | March 30, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I think Tucker's increased minutes will lead to increased confidence and production. Agree that he has to work on his handle and finishing around the rim. I don't think he's going to be the "go-to" guy on offense, however; for three years, he's been an accessory player, and has never faced a defense looking to stop him. He's going to have to diversify his game if he's going to be a consistent scorer in the ACC.

Posted by: PeteinAZ | March 31, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

I'd think either Bowie or Mosely will be the go-to guy next year in crunch time. Mosley already has the maturity to handle it, but Bowie (with the emergence of his 3-point shot late in the season) has the skill set. Bowie can drive or stop & pop, and hit some big shots in some games late this year; that double-threat would be handy to have in the final seconds of a game.

Posted by: sammoMD | March 31, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

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