AP NEWS

sun Tuck feeling healthy, ready to go

May 7, 2019

UNCASVILLE — Morgan Tuck managed to play in 34 games last year, her most in three seasons in the WNBA. Considering her lengthy history of knee ailments, it was a noteworthy feat.

“I made it through a WNBA season and my overseas season with no problems. I didn’t miss any games,” Tuck noted Monday following practice with the Connecticut Sun. “That’s always a good thing. I’m really just focusing on trying to take care of my body and do a lot of recovery.”

Tuck, a 6-foot-2 forward, came off the bench in all but one game, averaging 5.9 points and 2.3 rebounds as the Sun returned to the playoffs for a second straight year. This was after she had played only 48 out of a possible 68 games over her first two seasons.

The former No. 3 overall pick out of UConn believes subtle changes to her diet and exercise routine were largely the reason for her renewed health.

“It was just more fine-tuning things. I really kind of figured out my nutrition — the things that work with my body and the things that don’t,” she said. “I really tried to focus on lifting and being really strong. I honestly tried whatever. If someone’s like, ‘Oh, you should try this, you should try this,’ I was like, ‘All right, I’ll try it.’ ”

Tuck said the most out-of-box suggestion came from her mother: turmeric and ginger tea. Tuck now drinks it every day, and it helps lower the inflammation in her knees.

Sun head coach Curt Miller credited Tuck’s commitment to her health, saying it is part of what helps players last longer.

“Morgan’s taken it really seriously. You can see it on her social media with meal prepping,” Miller said. “You see the veterans in our league — the Diana Taurasis and the Sue Birds — and how much nutrition plays a part in extending their career.

“Morgan’s had a ton of surgeries in her life. Her commitment to fitness and nutrition has the impact of allowing her to extend her career. She knows that.”

Knee problems have plagued Tuck throughout her career, starting in high school when she tore her left ACL. She missed all but eight games during her sophomore year at UConn to have surgery on her right knee. The NCAA granted her an extra year of eligibility, but she chose to turn pro after the Huskies completed their four-peat in 2016.

Tuck also missed the end of her rookie season after re-injuring her left knee. She played in 26 games, mostly off the bench, averaging 7.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists.

“We don’t dwell on it and we don’t think about it, but it’s never not out of your mind that she’s had some durability questions,” Miller said. “But, her grittiness, her ability to come back from those injuries, has been phenomenal. She’s not going to play in fear.”

Now, after spending the offseason playing in China, Tuck may be in line for a larger role with the Sun. Two-time all-star forward Chiney Ogwumike was dealt to Los Angeles last month, opening up more minutes on the floor.

“One of the benefactors of that is going to be Morgan Tuck,” explained Miller, saying he expects Tuck to have a “breakout” year. “What you appreciate is she’s really smart Xs and Os-wise. She really understands how to play the game. Her confidence level continues to increase as she has more and more success not only in our league, but overseas.”

Tuck, who turned 25 last Tuesday, appreciates the fact she was able to stay active during the offseason while also getting some rest. Her contract with the Beijing Great Wall of the WCBA was just for the regular season, not the playoffs.

“I don’t think in any sport,” Tuck said, “playing all year is good. That’s why I appreciate that I play in China because I get a break. Most of the players don’t get a break. That’s not good for your body. You never get time to recover. … At the same time, it’s how we make our living.”

That non-stop schedule was only magnified this offseason when Tuck’s former teammate at UConn, Breanna Stewart, ruptured her right Achilles tendon while playing in the EuroLeague championship in Hungary. Tuck said she’s been in touch with the reigning WNBA MVP.

“It’s her first major injury. That’s always hard, no matter when you have it,” Tuck said. “You can’t ever predict if it’s going to happen. But, Stewie hasn’t had a break since college. She’s played pretty much year-round. … She called it a ‘forced rest,’ where she gets to just relax a little.”

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour