Some freshmen enter college basketball and find stardom right away.
Playing time and shots within the offense come easy for these guys. There is some adjustment, but it’s always expedited with instant experience. For Utah, this applies to Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor, the two rookie starters for coach Larry Krystkowiak.
Utah at ColoradoThursday, 8 p.m.
TV » Pac-12 Network
But for every Loveridge or Taylor, there are the Dakarai Tuckers of the college hoops world. Those who find playing time sporadic at best. Those who need time to adjust to the speed and skill of Division I basketball out of high school.
"Dakarai hasn’t always played a lot, but he’s always been ready," Krystkowiak said.
At times, Tucker has been in Krystkowiak’s rotation, at times he hasn’t. On Sunday, though, the 6-foot-6 small forward out of California made perhaps his first real significant contribution in a tense atmosphere of his Utes career.
As Utah staged a big rally in a 68-64 loss to No. 9 Arizona at the Huntsman Center, Tucker came off the bench in the second half and hit two huge 3-pointers to fuel Utah’s comeback. During Pac-12 play, Tucker had hit just two shots from beyond the arc. He matched that output in 12 minutes against the Wildcats.
"I’m happy for Dakarai," Krystkowiak said. "He’s always stayed ready. He’s always been prepared whether or not he plays at all. He’s a great teammate and he’s a guy who helped us when his number was called."
Utah’s perimeter lineup this season has been devoid of length in a number of games. Tucker helped the comeback because he was the one guy on the roster with the size and the athleticism to combat Arizona small forward Solomon Hill.
With Tucker in the game, the Utes were able to effectively play a zone defense and bother shots from the perimeter. A normally reluctant shooter, Tucker willingly took the first open looks made available to him.
Krystkowiak said Tucker has been practicing well lately, leading the staff to trust him in pressure situations. As Utah prepares for a road game at Colorado on Thursday night, Tucker appears to be yet another freshman able to contribute as the Utes progress to the home stretch of the regular season.
"I just wanted to come in and play hard," Tucker said. "Coaches have told us all to stay ready and it paid off today."
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.