Lewis legend Larry Tucker makes 40th anniversary D-II team
By Jeff Vorva For Sun-Times Media March 3, 2013 6:12PM
Marist principal Larry Tucker (left) shares a few stories about his glory days with juniors Virgil Robertson and Jim Kikilas. Tucker was named to the NCAA Division II 40th Anniversary Tribute Team. | Jeff Vorva~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 5, 2013 6:21AM
Marist High School principal Larry Tucker was fighting the flu on Feb. 15 and was scrolling through a massive list of emails.
One subject line that started out with the word “Congratulations” was about to be zapped — unread — back into cyberspace, but Tucker hesitated long enough to read the rest of the line. Suddenly, he started to feel a little better.
Tucker was one of 48 former athletes to be honored on the NCAA Division II 40th Anniversary Tribute team, which honored one male and one female from each of the Division II conferences. The former Lewis University standout is representing the Great Lakes Valley Conference.
Tucker said he was humbled merely receiving the award. Then he saw some of the other honorees, including U.S. Olympian Edwin Moses and Michigan State University men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo. The female GLVC representative is former women’s soccer player Sandra Magnus, who went on to become an astronaut.
“She was up in space for 134 days,” Tucker said. “She’s an astronaut. I’m just a high school principal. I’ve watched Edwin Moses on TV. I feel blessed I was nominated. The more I read about it the more I was like, ‘Wow! They are putting me in with that kind of company?’ That’s really a great feeling.”
The group took athletes from the pool of sports that DII has to offer.
“This group of former student-athletes is meant to reflect the core values of Division II athletics,” Josh Looney, associate director of Division II, said in a news release. “Commissioners have helped identify a diverse group of championship individuals from Division II’s 40-year history. Not only did these former student-athletes act as champions in athletics and in the classroom, they’ve gone on to live championship lives as well.
“This group is a true representation of Division II’s commitment to providing its student-athletes a ‘Life in the Balance’ that extends beyond athletics.”
Members of the Division II 40th Anniversary Tribute Team will receive a commemorative 40th anniversary gift and is slated to have his or her accomplishments profiled through Division II media channels.
Tucker was a Marist standout who graduated in 1979 and went to work re-writing the Lewis record books. He led the Flyers to 66 wins in four seasons and the school’s first pair of NCAA Tournament berths (1982 and ’83), and was named GLVC Player of the Year in 1982.
The 6-foot-6 inside presence scored a school-record 2,120 points and shot a school-record 67.8 percent from the floor.
“I had a luxury of playing in an offense where we got the ball inside,” Tucker said. “I was the worst jumper on the team. I was the worst shooter on the team. I couldn’t handle the ball. But under the basket, I felt like I worked so that there would be nobody better than I was. Most of the shots I took were three- or four-footers. But guys were hanging on me all of the time. The shots I took I felt were pretty good.”
He was picked in the eighth round of the NBA draft, spending 10 days in the Cleveland Cavaliers camp and being cut shortly before the exhibition season started. He said being a 6-6 forward/center was a disadvantage in a camp full of guys 6-8 and taller. But he got a few licks in before he left.
“Richard Washington was a guy from UCLA whom I idolized,” Tucker said. “All of a sudden, I’m playing this guy. He had a bad knee and I was setting a screen and I knocked him down. We didn’t expect it. He was down on the ground and I’m standing over him for just a second and I couldn’t believe that I’m at an NBA tryout looking down on him. It was just a thrill to be there.”
After that, Tucker explored playing basketball in Belgium and England but it didn’t pan out. After two years in business and several years in education at Brother Rice, he was named principal of his alma mater 15 years ago.
Tucker and his wife, Anne, and children Ryan, Maddie, Lauren and Jaclyn live in Tinley Park.