IOWA CITY — Anthony Tucker still has his outside shooting touch.
In practice Tucker hits his target precisely and cleanly. Usually it’s from beyond the 3-point arc and with effortless ease. His smooth shot almost makes one forget he’s not going to play another game for Iowa this season.
Tucker, a 19-year-old freshman, was declared academically ineligible Jan. 21. He passed all of his courses, but his first semester grade-point average didn’t meet Big Ten standards of 1.65. Speaking for the first time publicly since becoming ineligible, Tucker said he’s still appealing the grade that benched Iowa’s top outside shooter and third-leading scorer.
“I kind of got a surprise at the end of the semester with one of my grades,” Tucker said Monday. “That’s kind of what the appeal process was all about, making sure the grade was right. The appeal process is still going on; I should know pretty soon. It won’t have any bearing on this season, but it’s just kind of a personal thing for my GPA and stuff.”
Tucker refused to blame the instructor for the grade and accepts responsibility for his situation. But he was critical of the final grade, which is why he’s still fighting it.
“Just from the last grade report I saw to when final grades came out, it was about a letter grade and a half difference,” Tucker said. “There wasn’t much work done after the time I saw my grade; there’s just a little bit of a dispute on some of the factors that went into the grade.
“I can’t make any excuses. I just need to work harder.”
Tucker has experienced a whirlwind first season with the Hawkeyes. He still has the team’s highest scoring output at 24 points in a loss to West Virginia. He hit a season-high seven 3-pointers at The Citadel. But he’s also been arrested for public intoxication and suffered from mononucleosis before his banishment from games.
On Dec. 7, Tucker was found unconscious and intoxicated in a downtown Iowa City alley and was taken to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. He was later charged with public intoxication and was suspended for 11 days.
The alcohol incident ran concurrent with mononucleosis, which fatigued Tucker on the court and in the classroom. He said part of his appeal was based on the illness, which prevented him from giving his best effort in that class.
The illness now has receded. Tucker lifts four days a week and has gained eight pounds to weigh 203. He works individually with assistant coach LaVall Jordan to continue to work on his grades and at basketball.
“There’s nothing more for him to do now than just attacking what’s in front of him,” Jordan said. “Getting in the classroom, getting better as a player, working out on the court and getting stronger in the weight room …
“If he responds appropriately, it could be something that helps him grow in the right way.”
Tucker still practices with the team. He plays a scout-team role, one designed to give Iowa’s defense a look at the opponent.
But his role is not one without regrets. He knows he could help Iowa immediately, especially with his outside shooting touch.
“It’s more frustrating for me knowing that I’ve felt like I’ve let my teammates and coaches down,” Tucker said. “The guys are doing their best. We don’t have a plethora of great shooters, but we do have a lot of guys that are great at a lot of other things and do their best to make plays. It’s just been frustrating knowing that I’ve let some people down.”
Tucker said he’s staying at Iowa. He sits on the bench for home games but lost his exemption to miss classes so he cannot travel. He has a Thursday night class so he didn’t attend Iowa’s home game against Michigan State on Jan. 29.
“As long the coaching staff wants me, I want to be here,” Tucker said. “I know I’ve had a rocky start and stuff, but the coaches and the players have been really supportive.
“This is where I want to be.”