Talen Horton-Tucker

Simeon's Talen Horton-Tucker draws strong reviews despite getting cut at USA Basketball

horton.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

Simeon's Talen Horton-Tucker draws strong reviews despite getting cut at USA Basketball

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Before Talen Horton-Tucker heads to Iowa State to start a promising college basketball career, the former Simeon star participated in the USA Basketball U18 national team tryouts in Colorado Springs.

One of 33 players in his age group vying for only 12 spots on the U18 national team, Horton-Tucker was cut from the competitive tryouts over the weekend. The 6-foot-4 Horton-Tucker won't be traveling to Canada to represent the United States this summer. But even though Horton-Tucker was cut from the team, he made a strong impression on many of the scouts and coaches in attendance.

Registering a startling 7-foot-1 wingspan and showing his unique versatility on the wing, Horton-Tucker showed flashes of strong play during his time at the tryout. USA Basketball is often searching for specific skills to fill out its roster, however, as Horton-Tucker was ultimately left off the team.

"He's one of the guys who stood out the most to me at USA in Colorado Springs," Mike Schmitz of ESPN's Draft Express said of Horton-Tucker.

"I think he's going to be an instant impact guy [at Iowa State] just because of his feel, his physicality. Obviously, he's long. I just think with his maturity and his ability to think the game with those physical tools, he'll have an impact, I would imagine, as a big-time starter right away."

"It's crazy. Just being able to do something like this before college, it's a blessing," Horton-Tucker said of his USA experience.

"Just seeing myself as a college basketball player. Competing against the best guys every day and just preparing myself for every situation."

Although Horton-Tucker drew some strong reviews for his play, there were also some things he'll need to work on before he arrives in Ames for freshman year.

The thin air of Colorado Springs can quickly make life difficult on participating players. This was something scouts noticed, in particular, with Horton-Tucker. Getting in even better shape for college is likely the next step for Horton-Tucker before he begins at Iowa State.

"I think he has to get himself in better shape. I think he weighted around 240 pounds. So, probably just trimming down 10-to-20 pounds," Schmitz said. "I was surprised though. I thought he was one of the better players there. Just trimming down, finishing around the rim a little better. And for a guy who can pass as well as he can, sometimes he has a tendency to just jack a quick three. So just picking his spots a little bit better."

During a busy few weeks of basketball in Chicago, Horton-Tucker has been putting in workouts all over town. A gym rat who can often be found watching basketball when others are working out — Schmitz said Horton-Tucker was watching NBA Draft workouts at UIC in May — Horton-Tucker is doing everything he can to improve his game. Sometimes, Horton-Tucker will work out at Simeon. During other times, he'll get a workout in with his uncle at anywhere an open gym can be found in Chicago.

Since the NBA offseason is also in full effect for most of the league, Horton-Tucker has worked out some with former Simeon star and Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker.

"I'm really close with Jabari. We just worked out. I was just at his house and we were playing in the city right before I left for here. It's always been great playing with guys like that," Horton-Tucker said.

https://twitter.com/KingMjh_/status/1002666726125985792

Working out with a local legend like Parker gives Horton-Tucker a measuring stick for the next levels of basketball as he's hoping to come in and compete for heavy minutes right away at Iowa State.

"His steps were a lot bigger because he was the No. 1 player in the country and did all of these great things. He won two gold medals. But just being able to look up to somebody that I can call on a regular basis, giving me info on things I need to do to get better for college and the next level is big," Horton-Tucker said of Parker's influence.

Horton-Tucker is planning on getting to school later this summer as he continues to build a relationship with his fellow local Cyclone incoming freshmen — Corliss big man George Conditt and Hinsdale South wing Zion Griffin. The Chicagoland trio are all hoping to make an impact at Iowa State as early as next season as the Cyclones are trying to be more competitive in the always-loaded Big 12.

"They just want me to come in ready. They already think I'm ready to play college basketball skill-wise. But as my body gets better, and I mature more, things will come easier," Horton-Tucker said.

"Obviously everybody wants to start but just coming in and working is my focus."

As Horton-Tucker embarks on the next step of his basketball journey, he also can look back fondly at his memorable career at Simeon. Although he has a chip on his shoulder after not winning Mr. Basketball or a state title, Horton-Tucker has taken comfort in his legacy for being on one of the better Illinois high school teams of the past decade.

"I feel like I had the best senior year. Even though I didn't win a state championship, I won three city championships. I think I left a really good legacy at Simeon. I'm just happy for my teammates. I think there's like seven of us going to college [for basketball]," Horton-Tucker said.

"You know, even though we came up short we were still great."

How Iowa State landed Simeon's Talen Horton-Tucker to finish a huge Chicagoland recruiting haul

phillips_with_talen_horton-tucker_06-13_640x360_966800451681.jpg

How Iowa State landed Simeon's Talen Horton-Tucker to finish a huge Chicagoland recruiting haul

Iowa State capped off a tremendous year recruiting the Chicagoland area on Thursday night as Simeon senior wing Talen Horton-Tucker committed to the Cyclones during a press conference in the Simeon auditorium.

The 6-foot-5 Horton-Tucker is the third player from the area to commit to Iowa State in the senior class, joining Corliss big man George Conditt and Hinsdale South wing forward Zion Griffin. Horton-Tucker selected the Cyclones over his other finalists of Illinois and Xavier. The senior took official visits to all three schools during the recruiting process.

The Chicagoland trio is an impressive coup for head coach Steve Prohm on the recruiting trail as Iowa State has recruited the state better than any other program in the country this fall.

Jumping on all three recruits with earlier scholarship offers than most other high-major programs, Prohm and the Iowa State staff deserve a tremendous amount of credit for formulating a plan to recruit three of the state's four best talents and get them to leave the Land of Lincoln. Iowa State assistant coach Daniyal Robinson also deserves credit as the Illinois native has a lot of recruiting ties in the state that also helped form lasting connections.

For a versatile wing like Horton-Tucker, he saw how Prohm and the Cyclones used another versatile wing in Deonte Burton last season as a comparison for how Iowa State might use him over the next few years. Much like Horton-Tucker, the 6-foot-4 Burton was undersized playing as a small-ball four, but he was able to break down opposing defenses by taking bigger players off the dribble and extending the floor with shooting range that he developed over time at Iowa State.

"I feel like they can use me the same way Deonte Burton was used. Actually, I feel like I can do more," Horton-Tucker said. "That's one of the great things that Coach Prohm is good at. I can't wait to see what he'll use me as."

Horton-Tucker also felt comfortable knowing that other Chicago players were coming with him and that Chicago-area players had succeeded playing for Prohm in the past. Taking his official visit to Ames on the same weekend as Conditt and Griffin earlier this fall, the already-committed duo spent the weekend working Horton-Tucker to get him to join them at Iowa State. The trio even decided to partake in a Fab Five-style photo shoot with Prohm during the visit. Horton-Tucker left the Iowa State official visit comfortable knowing that he'd fit in if he decided to go there. 

"I was comfortable with every school on my list," Horton-Tucker said. "I cut it to three for a reason. Those were the schools I felt most comfortable with."

The recent success of former Niles North and Iowa State star Abdel Nader with another clear selling point. Growing up on Chicago's North Side in the Uptown neighborhood, Horton-Tucker has formed a relationship with Nader and spoke to him during the recruiting process. With Nader now on the Boston Celtics after a successful run at Iowa State, Horton-Tucker had an easier time visualizing his own success there.

"I talked to him myself, I'm actually cool with him. Being with him a lot, it was nice. Being around him, learning," Horton-Tucker said of Nader. "He's in the NBA now so it helps me prepare myself to try and reach that goal to get to the NBA."

Iowa State made the major splash by landing Horton-Tucker's verbal commitment on Thursday, but much of the buzz in the auditorium leading up to the announcement centered on the in-state school that missed out.

Illinois made a late push with an official visit from Horton-Tucker last weekend and the Illini were a perceived favorite for his commitment as recently as earlier this week. Things dramatically changed in the final days leading up to Thursday's commitmen as multiple sources confirmed to NBC Sports Chicago that a rift emerged between the camps of Horton-Tucker and Morgan Park senior guard Ayo Dosunmu, who pledged to the Illini last week. 

Much of the rift centers on Dosunmu and Horton-Tucker playing together for the Mac Irvin Fire in the Nike EYBL this spring. After playing together for three sessions and starting with a promising 3-2 record, the Fire lost seven consecutive games and Horton-Tucker left the Fire before the EYBL's final spring session over Memorial Day weekend in Los Angeles. 

Horton-Tucker then spent his July live evaluation period playing with Meanstreets and Team Rose as the move away from the Fire rubbed some the wrong way. Nick Irvin, the head coach of Morgan Park, is apart of the Mac Irvin Fire program that is run by his brother Mike. Once it became apparent that Dosunmu and Horton-Tucker might play together in college at Illinois, the former issues became a talking point that bubbled onto Twitter.

Dosunmu and Horton-Tucker spoke to one another on Wednesday as Horton-Tucker was finalizing his college decision. When asked about an alleged rift with Dosunmu, Horton-Tucker downplayed any kind of perceived beef that lies between the two Public League stars as the drama may be more between the adults involved.

"I’ve played with [Ayo] since I was 13, I didn’t have a problem with it,” Horton-Tucker said when asked about the situation. “We could have done something at Illinois, I just chose a different spot.”

Regardless of what actually happened with Horton-Tucker and Illinois, he plans on signing with Iowa State during the early signing period as the Cyclones should be thrilled to get another versatile piece.

Helping Simeon to a city title and second-place finish in Class 4A last season, Horton-Tucker is one of the area’s most unique players. An impact defender with a long wingspan who can guard multiple positions, Horton-Tucker is also skilled with the ball in his hands. Horton-Tucker spent the summer working to improve his perimeter jumper as he's hoping it will be a more reliable weapon during his senior season.

Getting emotional after making his public decision on Thursday, Horton-Tucker took a moment to bury his head in his hands as he quickly composed himself to finish his special moment. Now that recruiting is out of the way, Horton-Tucker is hoping to end his final season with a state championship.

"I figured like, 'I did it, man.' I kind of feel like I made my family proud. In my family we don't have the basketball pedigree that everybody has; a father that played," Horton-Tucker said. "My father, he passed away. I just feel like I did it for everybody here that didn't make it or whoever was in my life at that point in time."