Resilient Tucker bounces back again Child woes to injuries, Towson star is survivor

State college preview

November 21, 1996|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

For Towson State senior Trinette Tucker, the basketball court was like a fortress. It was a refuge from a troubled home life, a place where she excelled and exuded confidence.

On the court, she felt untouchable.

That all changed in the summer of 1995, however, when Tucker '' broke her right foot in four places after landing awkwardly on concrete during a pickup game.

On the comeback trail several months later -- still limping slightly after surgery on her foot -- Tucker suffered a broken nose after being struck inadvertently by a teammate's elbow during a Towson State practice.

Wearing a protective mask, a determined Tucker forged ahead, only to dislocate her elbow when an opponent landed on her during a scramble for a loose ball.

The injuries took their toll. One year after being named Big South Player of the Year and averaging 19.2 points as a sophomore, Tucker's scoring average fell nearly six points and she was limited to 18 games and only five starts.

It's no wonder Tucker is eager to put last season behind her.

"Everything went right the year before and then last year it was just a horrible experience," said Tucker, a 5-foot-9 forward/guard. "I couldn't understand why this was happening. But I feel great now and I feel I have a lot to prove and a lot to make up for last year."

Gaining respect in the America East (formerly the North Atlantic Conference) is a priority for her. Tucker was a preseason all-conference selection when the Tigers joined the league last year, but she was not on this season's list.

"I don't think they know what I'm capable of because I didn't play at 100 percent last year," Tucker said. "I want to prove to people that I deserve to be on the first team."

Proving that others' opinions of her are wrong has been a motivating force for Tucker throughout her life.

She grew up in Falls Church, Va., in the Bailey's Crossroads area. Tucker was one of the few members of her peer group to make it to college. Most of her childhood female friends either became young mothers, got into drugs or both, she said.

"When I was growing up, I had a lot of people doubt me," said Tucker, a sports management major who is on schedule to graduate in her fifth year. "They didn't think I'd be where I am today. That's just the neighborhood I came from. But I had my heart set on certain things. I was determined."

When Tucker was 13, a Fairfax, Va., court ordered her to be removed from her grandmother's home, where Tucker said drug and alcohol abuse was rampant, and placed in foster care. The people Tucker had thought were her parents were actually her grandparents, and the woman she thought was her sister turned out to be her mother. Her high school coach and assistant coach became her legal guardians.

Having survived that, Tucker wasn't about to let a few broken bones stand in her way.

"I think all of it has made me mature and a tougher individual," Tucker said. "I know that I can recover from things, just believing and seeing that all things are possible."

Tucker, who began playing basketball at age 6 and played only on boys teams until high school, used the sport as an outlet during her childhood. But when she was sidelined with injuries, she realized her accomplishments extended beyond the court.

"I look at certificates and awards and just the little things and it makes me feel good," said Tucker, who hopes to play professionally in the United States or overseas after graduating from Towson State. "But I can do without basketball or anything else just knowing that I've made it."

Tucker likes to spread the word to others that they can make it, too, especially to kids from her old neighborhood.

"I talk to kids that are going through things that I've gone through," she said. "I've experienced a lot, so I can relate to them and talk to them. I'll devote as much time as I can to help people."

She already has done plenty to help the Tigers.

Tucker transferred from Fairfield to Towson State after her freshman season and made an immediate impact, scoring 65 points in her first three games and earning Big South Player of the Week honors. The Tigers, 1-6 before Tucker became eligible, went 14-7 the rest of the way.

She finished as the team leader in scoring and steals (2.4) and was second in rebounds (6.3) and assists (2.4.). Despite her physical problems last season, Tucker still led the Tigers in scoring (13.6) and rebounding (5.2) and set a school and NAC record with seven three-pointers in a game.

"Trinette's become a proficient three-point scorer and she has the ability to post up as well," said Towson State coach Ellen Fitzkee. "She also can handle the ball against pressure and she's a great passer in the post. And she's a tremendous reader in defensive situations and can put a lot of pressure on the ball."

Fitzkee also was impressed with Tucker's competitiveness during last year's injury-riddled season.

"Even when she was only 80 percent, she still wanted to go all the time," Fitzkee said. "To me, that's a leader. That's what she brings to the ballclub. Regardless of how many points she scores or what type of defense she plays, she sets the tone for the rest of the team."

What's next

Coming college basketball previews in The Sun:

Tomorrow: Loyola, UMES

Monday: Coppin State

Tuesday: Maryland

Pub Date: 11/21/96

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