Butler basketball’s Jordan Tucker has elected to forgo his final year of eligibility. What could be the next steps for the Dawgs on the wing?
After the conclusion of this past season, Butler basketball’s Jordan Tucker announced his intentions to test the NBA Draft waters and many expected that he would not return. A couple of months later on May 22nd, the 6-foot-7 wing solidified his decision that his collegiate career was complete. Tucker brought solid size and shooting ability to Butler’s rotation over the past two seasons and his presence will surely be missed. This is especially true after he made big strides in his all-around game during this past year.
While his per-game numbers might not jump off the computer screen, Tucker was a no-doubt strong contributor for the Dawgs. With improved defense as a junior, he emerged as one of the better sixth-men in the Big East. He averaged 8.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game while shooting 35.7 percent from 3-point range. He competed in 30 games for the campaign, starting five of them, for a Butler team that finished 22-9 and was eying a potentially high seed at the NCAA Tournament before its cancelation.
Looking ahead for Butler, this is a rather substantial loss for this coming season. While the departures of Kamar Baldwin and Sean McDermott (among others) are the headliners this offseason, Tucker was projected to fill a major scoring role on the wing with his strong shooting and overall experience at the collegiate level. In his absence, the Dawgs will need to turn a few of their youngsters or pieces returning from injury to fill big minutes.
Who can fill the void next season at the “3”?
Perhaps most notably, incoming freshman Scooby Johnson will be among the group holding down the “3” spot in the rotation. Johnson will arrive on campus fresh off winning Michigan’s Mr. Basketball as a senior and is the type of do-it-all prospect that can make an immediate impact. He brings a strong 6-foot-6 frame to the table and he can score from deep, inside, and is a reliable passer as well. His defensive numbers were also quite gaudy for Benton Harbor (MI).
Johnson is rated as a fringe four-star prospect in Butler’s highly-touted recruiting class that is ranked inside the Rivals’ Top 25. While he is definitely quite skilled and appears to be college-ready, he will still be a true freshman during this coming year and will likely experience some hurdles along the way. Still, the Dawgs will need him to be a solid scoring threat on the floor and perhaps thrusting him into big minutes right away will aid his development.
Another wing option for Butler to turn to could be Markeese Hastings, a redshirt sophomore that has not seen a ton of floor time to this point in his career. Hastings is a bit of a “mystery man” heading into the 2020-21 campaign because it will be his third year at Butler and he has only played 19 total minutes. He is quite familiar with the program and its schemes by this point, but he is also inexperienced when it comes to actual play on the court.
Thankfully, this duo of young wings will be surrounded by a veteran core that includes four starting-caliber upperclassmen. Aaron Thompson, Bryce Nze, and Bryce Golden all started every single regular-season game that they were each healthy for last season and will bring plenty of experience to the court. Thompson and Nze, especially, have been lauded for their leadership both on and off the court.
Furthermore, Butler’s coaching staff was able to secure a solid graduate transfer shooting guard in the form of Jair Bolden earlier this offseason. The 6-foot-3 Bolden will add much-needed shooting to the wing as he averaged 8.5 points on 41.2 percent shooting from distance over this past year with South Carolina. He is a veteran performer and will also bring leadership to the likely starting lineup. He could spell some time at the “3” too, although he is more of a combo guard.
It is also worth mentioning that an early healthy return from Christian David would also really help Butler’s wing. The senior forward was one of the nation’s more underrated performers last season as a multi-positional stopper off the bench for a Top 10 defense in the country prior to tearing his ACL. When David returns to the court, he will need to be a more assertive scorer than he has shown to this point in his career, but there is no doubt that he can defend at a very high level.
With all of this said, though, Tucker’s departure also opens up another avenue.
With one open scholarship left…
…Butler has the option to land another transfer. Considering the coaching staff has been well aware of Tucker’s potential departure, they have been able to stay active in the portal. As of right now, one name really sticks out as a possible addition for the Dawgs: East Tennessee State’s Bo Hodges. Butler reached out to the 6-foot-5 Hodges upon his transfer announcement, has hosted him on a virtual visit, and also made his top five.
For more on how Hodges would fit with Butler, I covered that here.
There could also be some new names that crop up over the next few weeks both from the sit-out and graduate varieties. There are positives and negatives to targeting players of either genre.
Landing a grad, for example, would help Butler’s roster right away this season but might leave them once again needed an immediately-eligible transfer next offseason for experience on the wing as that issue would still not solved. A sit-out, on the other hand, would fix that experience issue for 2021-22 but would leave this coming year quite vulnerable as it pertains to proven talent at the position.
If Butler does not elect to use the open scholarship for a sit-out wing this offseason, it will have an extra scholarship open for next spring. It is impossible to speculate about who might be in the portal in 10 months, but the likes of John Poulakidas, Brooks Barnhizer, and David Joplin appear to be top wing targets in the 2021 recruiting class, along with current commits Jayden Taylor and Pierce Thomas.
On the whole, Tucker’s decision was an expected one but nonetheless continues to make Butler’s offseason a very interesting one. The coaching staff still has some decisions to make as the Dawgs have an intriguing mix of veteran upperclassmen and extremely unproven but talented newcomers.