I think I am starting to lose control of this blog. When I am checking my own blog for updates from Diamondback Russ; I think it is safe to say I am no longer in control. I have to say that I love it. Keep up the great work, Russ.
Now, back to my 12-part series on the returning/incoming players to the program. Over the last few weeks, I’ve profiled Mosley (briefly), Eric Hayes, and Braxton Dupree. Now, let’s tackle the player that I think will make the biggest improvement over last year’s performance.
As a point of comparison, let’s look at Cliff’s freshman stats as compared to Terrance Morris’ freshman year. Morris nearly doubled Tucker in points, but to be fair, T-Mo played with a less crowded bench and at the same time a better supporting cast of starters. Three of Morris’ teammates would play in the NBA (Ekezie, Profit, and Jasikevicus), and Terrell Stokes was a steadier point guard. Sure, Vasquez delivered more dimes, but as we all painfully know; he also led the ACC in turnovers.
Nevertheless, I think the comparison is fair. Both Morris and Tucker are gifted athletes that have a knack for making the tough plays look easy. Both are lean and possess a smooth stroke. Sure, Morris is taller and played a different position, but I think we could see a similar leap in production with Tucker that we saw with Morris between his freshman and sophomore campaigns.
Morris improved from 7.4ppg to 15.3ppg. I think Tucker can do the same.
Last season, Cliff Tucker displayed flashes of absolute brilliance. Against Illinois, Tucker dazzled with a barrage of threes and dazzling finishes. Simply put, Tucker is the best athlete on the team.
Despite his natural abilities, Landon Milbourne will be the starter heading into fall practice. Tucker, however, should be breathing down his neck. Tucker has the better repertoire of skills, but Milbourne is more game tested. My sense is that whichever man can play consistently on both ends of the floor (something that rarely happened last year); will get the starting nod.
Someone will need to replace James Gist’s point production next year. To me it is clear that Tucker has the higher ceiling than Milbourne and is the only returning player with the potential to give the Terps 15ppg (besides Vasquez). Gary Williams must give Tucker the opportunity to assert himself and become the number 2 option in the half court.
A Cliff Tucker who averages 15ppg will take tons of pressure off the Terps young frontcourt. Maryland will still need inside scoring, but if Cliff Tucker and Grevis Vasquez are giving the Terps 30 points per night, than the big guys (Glichrist, Burney, and Dupree) can focus on rebounding and defense.
Clearly, much is in flux. Mosley needs to get eligible. Bobby Maze may not come to College Park, but Tyree Evans could. Who knows? Even Greivis could leave. One thing is for sure, Cliff Tucker will be an integral part of both the success and failure of next year’s team.