During his playing career at the U’ from 1978-82, Trent Tucker left a significant mark on the Minnesota record books. Over the course of his collegiate career, Tucker racked up 1,445 points, the eighth-highest total in school history. Tucker also led the Gophers to a Big Ten championship during his senior season.
Tucker’s contributions on the hardwood during his time at Minnesota were especially significant considering that Tucker, who still owns one of the best three-point shooting percentages in NBA history at 40.8%, never had the opportunity to play college basketball during the three point era.
Currently, Tucker serves at the senior Vice President of Community Outreach and Youth Development back at the U.’
“My job is to act as a liaison between the University and the Twin Cities community,” Tucker said. “I work to find ways to engage the university with the community and to identify things that the University has to offer that might be a nice fit for the community.”
While Tucker’s basketball accomplishments are numerous, they pale in comparison to his philanthropic service and dedication to the Minneapolis community. Through the Trent Tucker Non-Profit Organization, Tucker has worked to serve the Twin Cities area through celebrity bowling, golf and poker tournaments to raise funds for youth community and sport programs. The organization also focuses on an after-school program for at-risk youth.
Tucker On the State of Basketball
Following a successful 11-year career with the New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls, Tucker has balanced his community work with broadcasting. Tucker served as the Minnesota Timberwolves’ primary color commentator for the better part of a decade and is currently serving in the same role with the Big Ten Network.
Tucker’s experience playing and broadcasting the game at a high level in both the collegiate and professional contexts has a allowed the Flint, Michigan native to develop a unique proximity to the game.
“The game is a little bit faster because of the shot clock, and obviously because of the three point shot. When I was playing in college, the game was a little bit slower and when teams got ahead, they could stall and hold the ball,” Tucker said. “Now with the three point shot and the 35-second shot clock, teams have the chance to come back even if they’re down big in the first half.”
As one of the pioneers of the three-point shot in the NBA (the NCAA didn’t adopt the three-point line until the 1986-87 season), Tucker offers a unique perspective on how the three-point shot has affected, and will continue to affect, the college game.
“I like that they’re moving the three point line back. When you look at college players and you say that they’re great three point shooters, you can’t really say whether or not they’re ready for the next level right now,” Tucker said. “Today, when you jump to the next level, you don’t really know if you’re a great three-point shooter, because at the NBA level the distance is so much further. I think you’re going to see fewer guys taking thee point shots and more guys at the collegiate level will start to work on their mid-range game. I think players’ range from 15 feet to 19 feet will improve a lot and I think that’s a great thing for basketball.”
Due to his dual proximity to the community and to basketball, Tucker has noticed a transition from recreation to relevance for boys and girls playing high school basketball today. Most notably, Tucker sites traveling team opportunities and national competition as reasons to be excited about the future of basketball in Minnesota.
“I think that high school basketball here in Minnesota has gotten a lot better over the last 10 to 15 years. I think we see more kids from Minnesota competing at the national level. AAU basketball has really helped propel the Minnesota high school basketball player into the national scene, because of the chance they get to play against national competition throughout the summer to get more recognition and to become better players,” Tucker said. “They understand better what that high level of competition is all about. When I first came to Minnesota, the high school basketball was not as big or not as well known as it is today, just because of the exposure. They’ve always had good players in this area, but now I think the biggest difference is that boys and girls have more opportunities to play high school basketball on the bigger stage.”
The Beauty of Sport
Among Tucker’s many claims to fame came on January 15, 1990 when he hit a game-winning shot against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden. With :00.2 remaining in the game, Tucker hit a turnaround three at the buzzer to give the Knicks a 109-106 victory.
At the conclusion of the 1989-90 NBA season, the league adopted a rule that said that a team may only tip-in a shot when less than :00.3 left on the clock and could not get a shot off before the clock expires, as Tucker did in the game against the Bulls.
The rule change, unofficially dubbed The Trent Tucker’ rule, also provides an opportunity for Tucker to explain his perception of the value of basketball, and sport in general, and gives us a glimpse at what inspires Tucker to do what he does.
“We all know that New York is something of a melting pot of our society; there are people of all different backgrounds, races and nationalities. On that day, in that moment, when that shot went in, 20,000 people all stood up to cheer,” Tucker said. “It didn’t matter what the other people looked like or where they came from, they didn’t care about the other person’s religion. They were just cheering for the New York Knicks. I thought to myself that if we could take this situation right here this small, small situation and translate that into what the world should be all about, the world would be a much better place.
“Sports to me are what life and society should be all about. Especially in team sports, because you have to learn about people and accept who they are. You have to find a way to coexist, to get along, to be unselfish and to strive for one goal. That to me is the beauty of sports.”