Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Clay Tucker is taking one more shot at the NBA.

Even if he comes up short, the Perry High grad has carved out a nice living playing pro basketball overseas.

The last two years the 6-foot-5 Tucker has played basketball in Barcelona, Spain, including last year playing for DKV Joventut Badalona in the professional ACB League. This past season, the shooting guard finished fourth in the league in scoring (16.2). He also averaged 3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.4 steals. He shot 41 percent (99 for 240) on 3-pointers.

"I had a great year for that league," Tucker said.

Along with his salary, which is just over $1 million a year, he receives free use of a car and a house which sits right on the Mediterranean in Barcelona.

"It's nice and right on the ocean," he said. "The boardwalk there has a lot of restaurants. The area was built for the '92 Olympics and is very diverse. A lot of people speak English."

The Spanish professional league includes a number of top-10 NBA picks, including Ricky Rubio, who was drafted fifth overall by Minnesota in the 2009 draft. But it's not the NBA. Last year the Cavaliers offered Tucker a nonguaranteed deal at the NBA minimum ($515,000) to come to training camp and try to make the team. He turned it down.

"From a business standpoint, it wasn't right to move on that," Tucker said. "I'm making (a million) and it's taxfree money." Tucker, however, hasn't given up the thought of playing in the NBA.

"It's in the back of my head. My goal has always been to play in the NBA," Tucker said. "It'll never change. But if I give up everything I've worked for in Spain, it has to be a guaranteed contract. ... The Cavaliers wanted to give me a partial contract, but it wasn't good for me. I made more than that in a month in Spain."

Tucker, who turned 30 earlier this week, has one more year left on his contract in Spain. Ater his playing days are over, he said coaching could be in his future.

Before he reports to Barcelona in September, he'll be busy.

"I have a tryout with (NBA) Washington this week, then one with the Cavs," Tucker said. "I also have one with San Antonio. I'll see if I have a legitimate chance to make a club. If not, I'll go back to Spain. It's a win-win situation."

Tucker helped Wisconsin-Milwaukee to its first NCAA appearance in 2003. From there, he began his professional sojourn.

He played for the Arkansas RimRockers in the D-League in 2006 and '07. In '07, he averaged 19.7 points, 4 rebounds and 5.5 assists.

"The D-League is for guys who already have played in the NBA, so I was behind the 8-ball the entire time," Tucker said. "But it was good to put my name out there. I don't regret it. What it did was help build my resume for Europe." Tucker played one year in Moscow and one year in the Ukraine before coming to Spain. He returned to Lima this week to see his family and friends. "This will always be home," Tucker said. "When I get off of I-75, I have to stop at the Kewpee. I also go to Fat Jack's pizza. I'll always come back here. I don't want to be the guy who forgot where he came from."

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