Holcomb's Tucker to sign with Washburn

4/3/2014

By BRETT MARSHALL

By BRETT MARSHALL

bmarshall@gctelegram.com

The decision for most high school athletes when they are looking at continuing their careers at the college level usually rests on where that will take place.

But in the case of Holcomb High School's Heath Tucker, the decision not only was about where he would play, but also which sport he would choose.

That's what happens when you are a talented, multi-sport athlete like Tucker who was a standout wide receiver, defensive back, kick returner in football, one of the top guards in southwest Kansas in basketball and is the defending Class 3A state 300-meter hurdle champion.

So when Tucker made his verbal commitment on Tuesday night to sign with the Washburn Ichabods to play NCAA Division II basketball, the long and sometimes arduous decision-making process was at last over.

"I don't have to worry about any more of those decisions, and I can enjoy my last couple of months of high school," Tucker said Wednesday night in a telephone interview.

The 6-3, 185-pound guard, plans to sign his letter of intent with the Ichabods on April 16.

In his senior season, Tucker helped the Longhorns to a 20-4 record, a Great West Activities Conference championship and an appearance in the Class 3A state tournament in Hutchinson after winning its first sub-state title since 2009.

Tucker's final decision came down to basketball at Washburn, and taking Kansas State up on its request for him to walk-on for football his freshman year with the hopes of then earning a scholarship.

"It was a lot about the difference in the financial aspect of the two," Tucker said. "With my academic scholarship, almost everything is taken care of at Washburn."

It was, in his own words, a most difficult decision since he has almost an equal love for the two team sports.

"It's a day-to-day and season-to-season thing on which sport I love most," Tucker said. "I really love both of them. But the chance to play for a great program at a really great academic school was a big appeal."

The Ichabods compete in the difficult Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association, a 14-school conference of Division II NCAA that includes teams from Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. Just a week ago, Central Missouri won the men's Division II national championship in Evansville, Ind.

Tucker said he had been recruited for basketball by most of the state's junior colleges, NAIA schools and some early on by both Fort Hays State University and Emporia State University, both members of the MIAA.

"When I went to Washburn for my official visit in November, they played their alumni, and I got to hang out with the team and really liked it," Tucker said.

The Ichabods, who went 17-10 this past season, are coached by Bob Chipman, formerly a standout player at Kansas State University, who just completed his 34th season at the Ichabod helm. Tucker said it was assistant coach Dave Brown who did much of his recruiting.

"I just really felt comfortable with the entire team, coaches and the school," Tucker said.

In his senior basketball season, Tucker averaged 15.7 points while also leading the Longhorns in rebounds, steals and assists and also shooting 87 percent from the free-throw line and 34 percent from 3-point range.

In addition to being selected to The Telegram's All-Area basketball team, Tucker was recently named first team Class 3A by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association, and chosen for this summer's KBCA All-Star game. During the 2013 football season, Tucker switched from wide receiver to quarterback and guided the Longhorns to a 7-4 record and a second-round appearance in the Class 3A state playoffs. He completed 63 of 110 passes (57.3 percent) for 1,091 yards and eight touchdowns while rushing for 1,040 yards (6.46 avg.) and scoring 14 TDs. Defensively, he was in on 50 tackles and had two interceptions. He was a selection to the 2014 Kansas Shrine Bowl football game, which also is to be played this summer. His status for that game, however, remains uncertain until he discusses it with his college basketball coaches.

Track, however, may have been his best sport, but not his first love.

"When you look at the big picture, track is just a daily grind," said Tucker, who ran the third fastest time in Kansas in 2013 in all classes (38.19) en route to winning the state title in 3A, and also was the runner-up in the 110-meter high hurdles. He also has run the anchor on two state champion 4x400-meter relay teams. He hopes to compete in a variety of events this final track season.

"I've talked with my coaches and we'll do the two hurdles most times, but we're looking at possibly the long jump, triple jump, a 100, a 200 and a 400 somewhere during the season," Tucker said. "I just want to keep it fun, but want to make sure I'm sharp in the hurdles when it comes to regional and state."

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