WOODSTOCK – Kendrick Tucker’s year of prep basketball at Massanutten Military Academy this past season got off to a rocky start when he suffered an injury during a preseason practice that sidelined him for three months. But the coaching staff at Wingate University stuck with the Roanoke native.
Tucker rewarded the NCAA Division II program’s persistence on Friday morning by signing a national letter of intent to play basketball for the Bulldogs next school year.
“It means a lot because, you know, you’re working on it basically your whole life to get a chance to play college basketball,” Tucker said. “When I was here I got injured with a stress fracture in my leg, so just sticking through the process through the ups and downs and finally being able to sign, it means a lot.
“It’s a weight off my shoulders. I feel like if I can do this I can do anything now.”
Tucker, a two-time Virginia High School League Group 3A first team all-state selection at Northside High School, chose to prep for a year at MMA after high school in order to boost his player profile but suffered a stress fracture in his left leg in September. Tucker didn’t debut for the Colonels until Jan. 6, but he said Wingate – which first began showing interest in the 6-foot-3 guard last summer – offered him a scholarship while he was sidelined.
Tucker said he visited Wingate, located in North Carolina, in March.
“Just when I stepped on the campus, I just liked the campus feel and it could benefit me in the classroom and on the court,” Tucker said. “I just like the group of guys and the coaching staff. And the area, I always said I wanted to go to school in North Carolina, so when the opportunity came I took it.”
Wingate, coached by Brian Good, went 20-11 overall and 16-6 in the South Atlantic Conference this past season while earning a spot in the NCAA Division II tournament.
The Bulldogs are 160-109 in nine seasons under Good.
“(The coaches are) good guys, and they compete every year, so that’s a big factor,” Tucker said. “And just from Coach Good and the assistant coach, Coach (Marcus) Kirkland, they’re just good guys. Being around them, you feel the energy around them.”
Tucker becomes the sixth MMA postgraduate basketball player to sign a national letter of intent this school year, joining Jamarko Pickett (Ole Miss), Bud Mack (Manhattan), Kasper Christiansen (Florida International), Charles Falden (Winthrop) and Cory Hill (Fayetteville State).
Despite seeing his court time limited at Massanutten Military Academy, Tucker spoke highly of his year in Woodstock.
“Being a military school, it’s not gonna be the easiest route but just from being hurt taught me to stay mentally tough and just the whole military aspect probably gives me an advantage on other guys going into college,” he said. “I feel like I’ll be more prepared than I would’ve been coming straight out of high school.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org