Tucker Athletes Look Towards the NCAA

Asher AllenMany high school student athletes around the nation are striving, jumping through hoops, and putting in blood, sweat and tears to earn an athletic scholarship for college. There are nearly eight million high school athletes in the nation, and only about 490,000 go on to compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Tucker High School recently hosted an NCAA Night to help give Tucker students the edge to become one of those select few. The night consisted of an informational session about what students must do to play in the NCAA as well as a panel with alumni collegiate and professional players.

The night started off with guest speaker Asher Allen, a former player for the Tucker Tigers and the Georgia Bulldogs who later played professionally for the Minnesota Vikings. Allen stressed to the crowd that grades were important and shared examples from when he played for the Bulldogs. He recalled a time when the coaches asked players’ input about potential recruits, but Coach Mark Richt was clear he would not “waste any time” on some potential recruits due to their grades.

Allen told the Tucker crowd that it was important for high school athletes to attend as many college camps as possible, as this would help them get noticed. He shared that when he was in high school, he went to college camps every summer, and he thinks it helped him move forward in his collegiate career. In addition, he explained that high school athletes should have good game film to help in the recruitment process. He further encouraged the students, saying that Tucker students find success because the school sets them up for it.

“I went to Tucker High School. Once I came here competition was clearly the norm,” Allen said. “I am not sure if you know, but there are a ton of people who have made it to college, and that is the basics. There are a ton of people who go farther than that who have attended Tucker High School. So, you have a big family and a lot of access.”

One Tucker alumnus who played collegiately and professionally was Cameron Tatum. He played basketball at the University of Tennessee and went on to play professionally overseas. Tatum also expressed to the students the importance of grades. Tatum shared his recruitment experience with the University of Alabama: Alabama offered him a scholarship but then realized his grades were not good enough, and they were not willing to wait for him to bring them up. He later learned that the scholarship was offered to an old teammate from his time playing travel ball.

“Alabama went right down Highway 78, right down to South Gwinnett High School to offer that kid that same scholarship and he took it,” Tatum said. “He did not say ‘let me weigh out my options,’ and I lost my opportunity to go to the University of Alabama.” The former Volunteer told the audience that the Alabama offer could have been his only one, though, and warned the student-athletes to make sure their grades are good because they could miss their only opportunity.

Tucker volleyball Head Coach Maureen Jekielek and THS football Head Coach Wayne Jones also spoke in the meeting. Coach Jekielek pointed out that summer volleyball is expensive but reiterated that it can increase an athlete’s chances to play collegiately. She also shared that most female athletes don’t get full ride scholarships, and most of their offers are only between 25 to 50 percent of tuition.

Coach Jones acknowledged the success of one of his football players, junior linebacker Christopher Jackson, who has won recruiters’ attention and received more than a handful of offers. His offers include the universities of Auburn, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Georgia, Michigan State, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas A&M. Jones said that what his linebacker has done is exactly what Allen and Tatum recommended.

“Christopher Jackson has great film, great work ethic and good grades,” Jones said. “He works hard on and off the field and has great character.”

“I think it was great,” THS athletic director Cameron Heyen said of the NCAA Night. “I think having Asher Allen come back and Coach [Cameron] Tatum…here was very powerful to the kids that were in the audience due to the fact they are not just hearing it from me over and over again. They heard it from somebody who’s also been through this and has been very successful, who has played both collegiately and professionally.”

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