I'm always very weary of verbal commits, because it seems like they never stay committed. The recruiting game is very fickle these days, but once early signing day comes around, teams around the country can take a deep breath as they now officially have these players that they have spent so much time on. It seems like we've picked up a very good player that was flying under the radar in terms of national exposure. Recruiting a player takes a long time, and Rucker has many ties to Coach Patton and the Huskies.
Anybody who watched Northern Illinois last year knew they had some issues on the front end of things. Nate Rucker is a strong, solid individual and will hopefully bring a toughness and intensity to the forward position that we so have been seeking starting in 2010. We also will be losing a lot of size after the this season, as Najul Ervin (6'5" 218) and Ante Dzepina (6'8" 250) will both be graduating.
One scholarship remains to be given to another player for the Spring signing day, which I believe is mid-April. Check out the 2010-11 Basketball Recruiting Big Board for potential targets.
You can follow him throughout his senior season for the Melrose Golden Wildcats. Rucker also plays for the Memphis Select Boys AAU team throughout the summer. Here are excerpts from the official release plus various other sources:
Rucker, a 6-foot-6, 245-pound center from Melrose High School in Memphis, is a three-year letterwinner for the Golden Wildcats.
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."
The bouncy wing man can hit the 17-footer off the dribble or finish in traffic at the rim. He has good length and quickness and should be a solid defender for the Huskies from day one in Dekalb. He chose Northern Illinois over interest from East Tennessee State and Tennessee-Martin.
"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.
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.
For a complete stat breakdown, check out his MaxPreps Profile
Why he chose NIU
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."
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.
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 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."