Feature photo courtesy of Jeremy Hogan, Herald-Times.
When most people think about high school basketball, they think about the state of Indiana. They think about the electric crowds and the hometown atmosphere, just like the one shown in the movie “Hoosiers.” Tucker Blackwell will tell you that it’s not all fiction, and that he plays in an incredible atmosphere every week.
“Every Friday and Saturday the gym is packed with pretty much a capacity,” the 6-foot-1 senior guard said of the Indiana high school basketball environment. “It’s like a mini college atmosphere. It’s just much more up close and personal.”
Now excelling in his senior season, Blackwell is ready to transition to the full college atmosphere. He received his first Division I offer in June from IUPUI and then received an offer from Army on January 14, the second of which really intrigued and honored him.
“I wasn’t really expecting it, but it’s really prestigious,” Blackwell said. “[At first] I didn’t know if I really wanted to do it, but then the coach talked to me about [playing at West Point] and it sounded super enticing.”
Blackwell said that he will take an official visit to West Point at a later date and make his decision after that. There are a lot of things about Army that are swaying him towards playing for the Black Knights.
“What’s really cool about Army is that it’s a job right out of college,” Blackwell said. “I know basketball is going to be over in four years so I just want to go to a school that has a great education and is going to set me up for life,” he added.
Before Blackwell officially makes his decision about college, he wants to focus on finishing out his senior season as a Bloomington South High School Panther in Indiana. Through 19 games this season he is averaging 19.6 points, 4.3 assists, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.2 steals per game in order to lead his team to a state title.
“We were a really young team but we’ve grown up this season. We think we can make a really deep run, if not go all the way to the state title,” Blackwell said of his team.
The Panthers, led by Blackwell, were close to that state title last season, but lost a heartbreaker to Franklin Central on a last-second shot in the regional semifinal game. That loss is still fresh in Blackwell’s mind, but he also has his sights set on this year’s goals.
“I don’t want to say it was lucky, well, I do, but it was just one of those games,” Blackwell said about the 2015 tournament loss. “But, I think we can definitely get back there and we know what the stage is like now,” he said.
Another guy will really want to make another run this season is Blackwell’s coach at Bloomington South, J.R. Holmes. Holmes is a legendary coach in Indiana, who has helped Blackwell’s game improve immensely over the years. The coach has over 700 wins in his career and was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.
“He coached both of my brothers and my dad played against him, and now he’s coaching me so it’s almost like he’s family to us,” Blackwell said about Coach Holmes, “It’s an honor to play for him.”
Coach Holmes had helped develop Blackwell into the great shooter he is today. His range and ability to hit big shots are the reasons why he is being recruited by Division I programs. He has also worked on becoming stronger and more athletic so he can attack the rim, but he knows there is still room to improve.
“For sure it’s ball-handling,” Blackwell said when asked about what he needs to improve on, “and you can always become a better shooter.”
Conquering his struggles on the court should not be a problem for Blackwell. His work ethic is very high because he knows how hard he needs to work to play basketball at a high level in Indiana.
“I’m always at the gym. I live in Indiana so I’m a gym rat. I just get as many shots up as I can in a day,” Blackwell said.
Although a self-proclaimed gym rat, Blackwell does still make a lot of time for his studies. He has maintained a 3.7 GPA, which should help him immensely if he were to choose to attend West Point.
The choice on where he wants to attend college will be coming soon, but not until after his senior basketball season ends. However, he will be visiting West Point soon, and expects the visit to play a significant role in his decision.
“If I like [West Point] I’ll definitely commit,” said Blackwell.
Those words should be music to the ears of Army head coach Zach Spiker, who, in Tucker Blackwell, could be getting one of the hardest working players he has ever seen.
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