One of the many aspects Larry Tucker enjoys about being the principal at Marist High School is the old acquaintances he runs into through the years.
Even if some bring back bad memories.
“Mallory Salis, who is a student at Marist and was on the state volleyball team, came up to me after a game this year and told me her dad (Gary) played against me,” Tucker said. “I asked what team he played for and when she said Oak Lawn I realized that he was the one that ended my high school career. He hit a half-court shot to win the game. When he came down from the stands, we gave each other a hard time. That’s what I love about athletics, you make so many connections with people.”
The heartbreaking loss never dampened Tucker’s experience at Marist.
The 1979 graduate still owns the record for most rebounds in a season (309) and is 12th all-time in career scoring.
“Those things may seem important and they were back in the day and you had a sense of pride, but it’s really a blip on the screen now and you start to become an afterthought,” Tucker said. “I prided myself on field goal percentage. When I shot, I was pretty certain I would either make it or get fouled. I thought, 'If I shoot it, it better be a shot I have confidence in.' It became a mentality that I took with me to college.”
Tucker’s biggest thrill at Marist was when the team enjoyed a five-point halftime lead against St. Joseph, which was ranked No. 1 in the state and was led by Isiah Thomas, before eventually falling by three.
He is a member of the Marist and East Suburban Catholic Conference Hall of Fames.
“Those are thrilling honors,” Tucker said. “You work hard but you never envision something like that. It’s nice to be recognized. The fact that my son Ryan is here (at Marist) now, you don’t have to relive the glory days like some parents do because he probably sees the plaque with my picture on it when he walks down the hallway at school and that tells the story.”
Tucker Peaks at College Level
As good of a high school career as Tucker enjoyed, his best basketball came at Lewis University, where he helped put the Flyers on the map.
Lewis captured its first Great Lakes Valley Conference championship in 1982 and its first two NCAA Tournament berths in 1982 and 1983.
Tucker is the program’s all-time leading scorer (2,120 points), averaging a school-record 20.3 points and shooting 67.8 percent for his career. He was a two-time All-American and is the only player to have his jersey retired by the Flyers.
“We felt like we were trailblazers because the program hadn’t had much success for a long time,” said Tucker, who is in the Lewis and GVLC Hall of Fames. “We had so many thrills as a group. I loved Lewis. Chuck Schwarz was definitely the best coach I played for. He got so much out of me.
"I applied so much of what I learned about hard work and determination and not letting anyone tell you that you can’t do something to my life today. The biggest thing I miss today is being on the court and playing basketball. I would love to go back and play one more game.”
Tucker Takes His Shot at NBA
After graduating from Lewis, Tucker was drafted in the eighth round of the 1983 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I don’t even know if the word thrilled is enough to describe that feeling,” Tucker said. “I was so used to watching guys like James Worthy and Sam Perkins on TV and seeing them get drafted around the time I was playing and I was still holding on to that dream for myself.
"Just having the chance to go out there and rub shoulders with people in the NBA opened so many doors for me. When people hear you got drafted, it’s a conversation starter.”
Tucker didn’t make the team, but will forever be grateful for the opportunity.
“Richard Washington, who was (named the NCAA Basketball Tournament Most Outstanding Player after leading UCLA to the national championship), was with Cleveland and we went at it. I set a hard screen and knocked him over, and I remember standing over him and thinking this is a guy I idolized.
"World B Free was on the team as well. I was just a guy that played at Marist and played Division II basketball and I was playing guys like this.”