Danville High’s starting point guard showed up wearing a Hawks sweatshirt, sporting her team’s characteristic royal purple at practice Wednesday afternoon.
An athlete wearing her team’s colors is typical, but what is more surprising is Tara Tuck, who has started for Danville (18-7, 4-2 in Class 3A, Area 14) all season, though just 13 years old.
The 5-foot-2 eighth-grader is quiet and well-spoken, and averages five points, three rebounds and three assists per game. She has been strong in recent games, scoring 11 points against Decatur Heritage and 12 points against Belgreen.
Decatur Daily sports writer Meredith Qualls sat down with Tuck to discuss her experience playing varsity this season.
Question: How did you start playing basketball?
Answer: I was in second grade, and my dad, John Tuck, and Jimmy George made me play. I probably wouldn’t have played, but they asked me to play because my friend was playing. I just decided to play and they taught me how.
Q: Did you like playing at first?
A: I liked it right off the bat because there was a lot of running, and I like to run.
Q: What is it like being on the same team as your sister, Breann Tuck?
A: We get along most of the time. She helps me through the hard times. If I do something bad and get it wrong, she usually says, “You’ll get it next time.”
Q: Is it intimidating playing varsity, being younger than everyone else?
A: Not as much as I thought it would be. They play pretty much like they did when they were younger, it’s just the skill level is higher.
Q: Speaking of skills, what things are you working on right now?
A: My shooting would be a big thing, because I don’t shoot well. And looking up, because I don’t see the floor as well as I should. Coach Wilson has taught me how to look up and pass it down the floor more than I used to. I used to just dribble, and then keep dribbling, but now I dribble and pass.
Q: Do you have a favorite movie?
A: Either “Coach Carter” or “Pitch Perfect.” Whatever mood I’m in. Probably “Pitch Perfect” because it’s really funny. My momma gave it to me for Christmas, and I think I’ve watched it eight times.
Q: On game day, do you have any rituals or anything you do differently?
A: I am superstitious. I wear the same socks and everything for game day. During school, I sit in the same spot, I use the same pencil. I’m just very superstitious. If I don’t do the same thing I feel like I’ll do bad. Once, I didn’t wear the same shirt, and I did terrible.
Q: Is there one thing Coach Wilson gets on to you about?
A: A bunch of things, actually. He tells me to run a bunch, because he wants me to keep the pace going. When I slow down, he hates it. He tells us to keep pushing it.
Q: Is there someone who you’ve learned a lot from in basketball?
A: If anything, probably Jimmy George or my dad, because they coached me ever since I was little. They pushed us to compete. They made sure our skill level was still going up.
Q: Where does your personality fit in with the rest of the team?
A: I’m the pet, really. I usually don’t say much at practice because I don’t want to get in trouble. I’m pretty funny most of the time, just not there.