Tuck feels healthy, ready to go

The News-Times - - SPORTS - By Doug Bon­jour

UNCASVILLE — Mor­gan Tuck man­aged to play in 34 games last year, her most in three sea­sons in the WNBA. Con­sid­er­ing her lengthy his­tory of knee ail­ments, it was a note­wor­thy feat.

“I made it through a WNBA sea­son and my over­seas sea­son with no prob­lems. I didn’t miss any games,” Tuck noted Mon­day fol­low­ing prac­tice with the Con­necti­cut Sun. “That’s al­ways a good thing. I’m re­ally just fo­cus­ing on try­ing to take care of my body and do a lot of re­cov­ery.”

Tuck, a 6-foot-2 for­ward, came off the bench in all but one game, av­er­ag­ing 5.9 points and 2.3 re­bounds as the Sun re­turned to the playoffs for a sec­ond straight year. This was after she had played only 48 out of a pos­si­ble 68 games over her first two sea­sons.

The for­mer No. 3 over­all pick out of UConn be­lieves sub­tle changes to her diet and ex­er­cise rou­tine were largely the rea­son for her re­newed health.

“It was just more fine­tun­ing things. I re­ally kind of fig­ured out my nu­tri­tion — the things that work with my body and the things that don’t,” she said. “I re­ally tried to fo­cus on lift­ing and be­ing re­ally strong. I hon­estly tried what­ever. If some­one’s like, ‘Oh, you should try this, you should try this,’ I was like, ‘All right, I’ll try it.’ ”

Tuck said the most out-of-box sug­ges­tion came from her mother: turmeric and ginger tea. Tuck now drinks it ev­ery day, and it helps lower the in­flam­ma­tion in her knees.

Sun head coach Curt Miller cred­ited Tuck’s com­mit­ment to her health, say­ing it is part of what helps play­ers last longer.

“Mor­gan’s taken it re­ally se­ri­ously. You can see it on her so­cial me­dia with meal prep­ping,” Miller said. “You see the vet­er­ans in our league — the Diana Taura­sis and the Sue Birds — and how much nu­tri­tion plays a part in ex­tend­ing their ca­reer.

“Mor­gan’s had a ton of surg­eries in her life. Her com­mit­ment to fit­ness and nu­tri­tion has the im­pact of al­low­ing her to ex­tend her ca­reer. She knows that.”

Knee prob­lems have plagued Tuck through­out her ca­reer, start­ing in high school when she tore her left ACL. She missed all but eight games dur­ing her sopho­more year at UConn to have surgery on her right knee. The NCAA granted her an ex­tra year of el­i­gi­bil­ity, but she chose to turn pro after the Huskies com­pleted their four-peat in 2016.

Tuck also missed the end of her rookie sea­son after re-in­jur­ing her left knee. She played in 26 games, mostly off the bench, av­er­ag­ing 7.0 points, 2.8 re­bounds and 1.1 as­sists.

“We don’t dwell on it and we don’t think about it, but it’s never not out of your mind that she’s had some dura­bil­ity questions,” Miller said. “But, her grit­ti­ness, her abil­ity to come back from those in­juries, has been phenom­e­nal. She’s not go­ing to play in fear.”

Now, after spend­ing the off­sea­son play­ing in China, Tuck may be in line for a larger role with the Sun. Two-time all-star for­ward Chiney Og­wu­mike was dealt to Los An­ge­les last month, open­ing up more min­utes on the floor.

“One of the bene­fac­tors of that is go­ing to be Mor­gan Tuck,” ex­plained Miller, say­ing he ex­pects Tuck to have a “break­out” year. “What you ap­pre­ci­ate is she’s re­ally smart Xs and Os-wise. She re­ally un­der­stands how to play the game. Her con­fi­dence level con­tin­ues to in­crease as she has more and more suc­cess not only in our league, but over­seas.”

Tuck, who turned 25 last Tues­day, ap­pre­ci­ates

the fact that she was able to stay active dur­ing the off­sea­son while also get­ting some rest. Her con­tract with the Bei­jing Great Wall of the WCBA was just for the reg­u­lar sea­son, not the playoffs.

“I don’t think in any sport,” Tuck said, “play­ing all year is good. That’s why I ap­pre­ci­ate that I play in China be­cause I get a break. Most of the play­ers don’t get a break. That’s not good for your body. You never get time to re­cover. … At the same time, it’s how we make our liv­ing.”

That sched­ule was only mag­ni­fied this off­sea­son when Tuck’s for­mer team­mate at UConn, Bre­anna Ste­wart, rup­tured her right Achilles ten­don while play­ing in the EuroLeague cham­pi­onship in Hun­gary. Tuck said she’s been in touch with the reign­ing WNBA MVP.

“It’s her first ma­jor in­jury. That’s al­ways hard, no mat­ter when you have it,” Tuck said. “You can’t ever pre­dict if it’s go­ing to hap­pen. But, Stewie hasn’t had a break since col­lege. She’s played pretty much year-round. … She called it a ‘forced rest,’ where she gets to just re­lax a lit­tle.”

Tim Clayton / Cor­bis via Getty Im­ages

Mor­gan Tuck, a for­mer UConn stand­out, played only 48 out of a pos­si­ble 68 games over her first two WNBA sea­sons with the Con­necti­cut Sun due to a lengthy his­tory of knee ail­ments.

Tim Clayton - Cor­bis / Cor­bis via Getty Im­ages

Mor­gan Tuck of the Con­necti­cut Sun in ac­tion dur­ing a game against the Chicago Sky at Mo­he­gan Sun Arena on Aug. 12, 2018 in Uncasville.

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