Daryle Tucker, head women’s basketball coach, deliberately and successfully recruits players from across the United States, particularly from the south.
“Right now I have the most diverse team, not only at Northland but in the entire conference,” Tucker said. The LumberJill players come from Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Tucker, or Tuck, as he’s known to his players, grew up playing basketball in Decatur, Georgia, a place where classmates earned a high school diploma and that was it. At the urging of a coach, he moved north after high school to attend Keystone College in Pennsylvania. He went for basketball but realized he would earn a degree.
“Basketball opened the door for me,” he said. “It changed my life.”
It was there he went skiing, canoeing, and hiking for the first time. “I did things I had never dreamed of doing,” he said.
He finished his degree at Point University in Georgia, where he was named NCCAA honorable mention all-American, and went on to earn two advanced degrees. Then he moved and stayed north. “We love it here,” he said of Northland College.
In coaching basketball, he wants to create similar opportunities for his players. “I knew when I got into coaching, I wanted to bring diversity and bring kids from the south and have them come to the north,” he said.
The thing Tucker looks for in a player is someone who gets excited about the idea of moving to a different environment, “that they want to be challenged and taken out of their comfort zone,” he said.
The team has participated in a lot of firsts—gentle snowfalls and winter storms, skiing and sledding, and the bracing experience of northern water. “Last fall, the whole team jumped off a cliff into the lake and they couldn’t believe how cold the water was,” Tucker laughed. “They are a tight group.”
He credits the local and regional players for making it work. They invite players into their homes, to dinners, and show them the area. Team players stayed with friends in the region over Thanksgiving break and the mom of his Iowa player drove up for Thanksgiving and stayed the week to make meals for the team.
“It’s special to see what we’re creating—I’m excited about it,” he said. “They are gaining confidence in themselves and some have even talked about moving here after college.”