Nate Rucker Makes it Official, Signs with NIU Basketball
Nov. 11, 2009
DEKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois head men's basketball coach Ricardo Patton's original roots are in the state of Tennessee, and he continues to scour the "Volunteer State" for young talent in his ongoing vision of restoring the tradition of Huskie basketball. The latest Tennessee native to join the program is Memphis native Nate Rucker, who signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball and continue his education at NIU Wednesday.
Rucker, who verbally committed to the Huskies last month, became the third player hailing from the state of Tennessee to move onto DeKalb in the Ricardo Patton era. He joins senior forward and Memphis native Najul Ervin, and freshman guard Antone Christian, who is a native of Nashville.
Rucker, a 6-foot-6, 245-pound center from Melrose High School in Memphis, is a three-year letterwinner for the Golden Wildcats. He averaged 12.2 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game during his junior season, leading Melrose to a berth in the regional championships.
Rucker announced his intention to attend NIU during a press conference at Melrose High School this morning. He was also recruited by Memphis, East Tennessee State, Middle Tennessee State, Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech, among others.
"With Nate Rucker, we signed a kid that is going to really help our program over the next four years," said Patton, who grew up in Nashville. "He's a powerful guy that will make an immediate impact; he's explosive off the floor, can score and defend around the basket, and I think will be a great player in this league.
Rucker was primarily recruited by NIU assistant coach Will Smith, who is also a Memphis native, was the first player recruited by Patton at Colorado, and has been on his coaching staff for the past six seasons.
"Hats off to (assistant coach) Will Smith for targeting, recruiting and eventually playing a huge role in getting Nate to sign," Patton added. "Will had the opportunity to get on the road to recruit a lot more in the last year, and he really did a nice job helping us fill a significant role and need for our team."
Rucker, who is projected as a power forward at the Division I level, was intrigued by NIU's coaching staff, along with the playing and training facilities at NIU.
"I'm really excited about the opportunity to play for coach Patton and his staff at NIU starting next season," said Rucker. "My sister played basketball at Colorado, so I've been following coach Patton's career for a while now. He's a winner, and does a great job developing players. I was also impressed by and attracted to the facilities at NIU. It's really a great college environment, and I can't wait to get up there."
According to Rucker, his individual strengths are his all-around post game. He will use his senior season to improve on some of the intangibles that will help him fit into Patton's system at the college level.
"My biggest strengths are my post game, both as a scorer and a rebounder," Rucker said. "I like to play inside with my back to the basket, usually within eight feet or so. One of my goals this season is to improve both my step-back game and my ball handling."
As mentioned, Rucker's sister, Candace, played basketball at Colorado during Patton and Smith's tenure on the coaching staff. She has since transferred to Southern Miss, where she will wrap up her senior campaign this season. Notably, Ervin's father, Juenile, is an assistant coach at Melrose, under Rucker's head coach, Jermaine Johnson.
Rucker's eligibility at NIU will begin in the 2010-11 season. Patton and his staff will have one more scholarship available for the late signing period, or to utilize in future recruiting classes.
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