Tucker's Path Is a Winding One

By Aaron Seidlitz, Suns.com
Posted: July 17, 2012

John Treloar watched the first half of the Phoenix Suns’ 2012 NBA Las Vegas Summer League opener perched in a seat high above the court at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion on Sunday.

The Suns’ director of player personnel had a bird’s eye view for the game, but he wasn’t focused on Markieff Morris’ noteworthy performance. With rookie point guard Kendall Marshall unable to play while his contract was still being finalized, Treloar’s attention was spread to the team’s 12 other players.

Of those NBA hopefuls, there may not be a star available, but the summer league is their showcase to prove to scouts from all around the league that their particular skill set could fill a void on a pro roster. In that sense, the basketball approach used by the Suns’ head scout in choosing the members of this roster is clear. He wanted players with an edge to their play.

It is no coincidence then that the first player Treloar mentioned was veteran forward P.J. Tucker when he discussed this year’s “Summer Suns.”

“He is a guy out of the University of Texas, who brings a real toughness to the team because of his veteran presence,” Treloar said. “He may not have played very much during the first half, but I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of him as the week goes along.”

By the end of the game, Tucker had scored seven points on 3-of-4 shooting. In his 15 minutes, the forward also made an impact on the glass with four rebounds – two of which came on the offensive end of the court.
Numbers aside, it is clear that the 6-6 forward has also made an impression on other Suns representatives in Las Vegas this week.

“P.J. is a guy after my own heart,” said Dan Majerle, the Suns’ summer league head coach. “He’s just tough as nails, does whatever you ask and plays extremely hard.”

Tucker’s passion and toughness on the court are indicative of how his basketball career has progressed over the years.

Not every player – especially the ones, like Tucker, who played a pivotal role on successful collegiate teams – is thrilled about the prospects of playing overseas. Yet, the forward said he has taken every opportunity he could to prove to coaches and executives that he is dedicated to the game, wherever he can play it.

Since helping a Texas team that was led by current Portland Trail Blazers’ star LaMarcus Aldridge to an Elite Eight appearance during the 2006 NCAA Tournament, Tucker has played in five different countries in Europe to pursue his professional dreams.

Following that run as a Longhorn, he was drafted in the second round by the Raptors. He split his time with the team in Toronto and its NBA D-League affiliate in Broomfield, CO.

In all, Tucker only played 17 games with the Raptors, before turning to alternative opportunities overseas. Since his time with Toronto ended in 2007, he has been a part of seven teams in five different countries and Puerto Rico. He joked that he and his family have “seen half of the world,” having played in places like Israel, Ukraine, Greece, Italy and Germany.

What may be looked upon as an incredibly difficult and uncertain way of life, has actually left a much different impression on this particular player.

“It’s great to be able to show my family all of Europe,” he said. “All of these experiences have been wonderful and will be something we remember.”

His family includes wife Tracy, 4-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, and a 5-month-old son named King. Their most recent stop was in Bamberg, Germany, where Tucker played for a team called Brose Baskets during the 2011-12 season.

If ever, during his stretch of playing overseas, Tucker should be confident of catching on in the United States, it’s now.
Not only has he been a part of successful teams, but he has garnered individual accolades across the pond, as well. But Tucker described last season as the “trifecta,” as his club won a league championship and cup championship, and he was named the Eurobasket.com All-German Bendesliga Import Player of the Year.

During the championship run, he averaged 16.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. Considering that Tucker was actually born and spent the first four years of his life in Frankfurt, Germany, as the son of an Army veteran, the 2011-12 season was actually a sweet return of sorts.

“I remember a little bit about living there, but not too much because I was pretty young,” he said. “That was really an awesome year, though. I got better, and now I’m just coming back here to prove that I can earn a roster spot.”

Tucker will have four more summer league games, beginning with one tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers, to impress an NBA team enough to earn his keep.