Rayjon Tucker, a top recruit from North Carolina getting interest up and down the East Coast, verbally committed to FGCU tonight, perhaps the biggest score of the Joe Dooley era.
The 6-5, 180-pound wing from Charlotte, who visited FGCU in August and reportedly had scholarships offers from Auburn, Boston College, Clemson, VCU, Virginia Tech and others, was a four-star recruit rated 98th in the nation among high school seniors by ESPN until being downgraded recently to three stars.
An explosive athlete, Tucker is rated the 39th best senior small forward in the nation and fourth best recruit overall in North Carolina by ESPN. Rivals ranks Tucker 117th in the nation among 2015 recruits.
“They just built a relationship with me and my family from the start,” Tucker told fgcueaglesnest.com of picking FGCU. “I like how family oriented they are. I just felt like I was part of the family from day one. That was the main thing that pushed them to number one.”
College coaches are not permitted to comment on recruits until they’ve signed. The early signing period in basketball is Nov. 12-19.
“Tucker is a strong, physical and highly competitive small forward that plays every possession in full attack mode and (as) hard as possible on both ends of the floor,” ESPN wrote. “Tucker plays above the rim on the break and on all clear paths to the rim. He is a terrific offensive rebounder.”
Tucker, whose father played football at Western Carolina, has focused solely on basketball for only two seasons after previously playing receiver and safety in football.
“I just got tired of all the pounding on my body,” Tucker told NBCsports.com. “I just really love basketball in my heart more than I love football. My dad was a football player, so it would have just fit. I just like the hardwood.
“My dad was fine with it, he always told me he supported me in whatever I do, it’s my life and my decision. He didn’t want to live his dreams through me.”
FGCU has recently been beaten out by schools in the SEC, Big East and Mountain West on a handful of higher-level recruits it has targeted. But it appears on strong ground with what would be the highest-rated recruit ever to sign with FGCU directly out of high school.
“The campus is great and beautiful,” Tucker told fgcueaglesnest.com. “It’s not too hot. Most people think being in Florida is really hot. The people and facilities are great. It’s just a family environment.”
Tucker, whose recruitment was led by FGCU assistant Jamill Jones, would fill one of at least four scholarships FGCU will have open after this season, when seniors Brett Comer, Bernard Thompson, Jamail Jones and Nate Hicks play their final seasons.
But with only two players slated to be seniors in 2015-2016, Dooley said FGCU might not fill all four scholarship vacancies after this season.
“We want athletes,” Dooley, entering his second season as FGCU’s head coach, said of FGCU’s general strategy targeting higher-level recruits. “We want guys that are very athletic and we think have upside.”
While FGCU emphasizes defense, toughness and intensity under Dooley, Tucker said the program’s up-tempo Dunk City reputation and foundation contributed to his commitment as well.
“Without a doubt. That was what led me to my decision as well,” he told Eagles Nest. “The style of play is fast, up tempo – just like my high school and AAU teams. That’s what I excel at most.”