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Basketball: Tennessee-bound Tucker gears up for FIBA championships

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New Town rising senior Jannah Tucker dreams of playing professional basketball in the WNBA and competing in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

She already won a gold medal as a starter for the United States national Under-16 team at the FIBA Americas championship in Merida, Mexico last summer.

She will make a run at another gold medal as a member of the U.S. U-18 National Team in Puerto Rico in August.

On top of those things, Tucker, a 6-foot shooting guard, committed to eight-time national champion University of Tennessee in June.

Tucker said she had planned to reduce her list of colleges to five this summer — University of Virginia and Penn State, West Virginia and Villanova — and start making official visits to schools.

That all changed when Tucker visited Tennessee for a second time in mid-June. She also spent time with the Lady Vols in February.

"Tennessee just had so many things to it," Tucker said. "I just fell in love with it, starting from the academic support to the opportunity in basketball to the family environment. In my first visit down there, I just had this gut feeling it was the best place for me. I took another visit as sort of confirmation."

Tucker, rated the eighth-best player in the ESPN Hoop Gurlz Super 60 class of 2013, will play for first-year head coach Holly Warlick at Tennessee.

Warlick, a Lady Vols assistant the past 27 years took over for the legendary Pat Summitt, who stepped down following the 2012 season, after compiling a 1,098-207 record in 38 seasons.

Tucker will still be able to interact with Summitt.

"She will be at games, sitting behind the bench instead of being on the bench," Tucker said. "It really wasn't a deal-breaker for me. I have a pretty good relationship with all the coaches. She (Warlick) is a player's coach. I know she will push me and not take it easy on me but, at the same time, make it fun for everybody."

With Tucker's college choice behind her, she can now gear up for the 2012 FIBA U-18 Americas championships.

Tucker was promoted to the U-18 National Team in May. Prior to that, she had participated in the U-17 team trials.

"She is focusing on that," New Town coach Gena Young said of the 2012 FIBA U-18 Americas championships. "That's a big part of her summer. She has kept working hard and got picked up for the (U-)18 team. That's a big statement right there."

Tucker appears to be in the best shape of her basketball career.

During the winter at Merritt Athletic Club in Owings Mills, she began more rigorous training, with urging by her father, Robert, a former boxer and basketball player at Richmond University.

"I am hitting the speed bag, heavy bag and jumping rope," Tucker said. "It definitely helps. It incorporates so much into basketball with the arm strength, speed and quickness."

At New Town this winter, Tucker averaged 33.9 points, 11.2 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 6.4 steals per game in 12 contests. She missed nine because of a high ankle sprain.

She averaged 26 points and 12 rebounds as a sophomore after playing her freshman year at Western High in Baltimore City.

"She is the complete package," Young said. "She is a natural born leader. She is a prolific scorer and a great defender. She is an all-around player. I would call her a beast."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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