It's been a long and difficult journey for former Longhorn PJ Tucker to get back to the NBA. Since debuting with the Toronto Raptors back in the 2006-07 season, playing in 17 games, and then being waived in the spring, Tucker has spent the last five years on something of a world tour, playing in six different countries before signing a two-year deal with the Phoenix Suns on Monday.
Here's the brief recap of his success during that time:
Since he was waived, the 6-foot-6, 224-pound forward has been a Most Valuable Player in Israel, a scoring champ in the Ukraine and the MVP of this year's German League finals. He also played in Italy, Puerto Rico and Greece, passing on NBA training-camp invitations to cement his role with European clubs that paid him well and supplied a home and a driver or car.
Probably not the glamorous lifestyle that he expected when he left Texas early for what he must have anticipated were NBA riches, but one that has paid him well enough that he's now taking a significant paycut.
Tucker spoke candidly with AZCentral.com about his maturation process since that first stint:
It's been a long, grueling journey, but it's fulfilling. I was so resentful in Toronto because I wasn't playing much. I was throwing fits. I was so young-minded. I didn't get the big picture or that it's a business. You have to understand your role on a team. You see kids come after you and do the same thing. So many never play and say they got screwed by the GM or coach. When you can be real with yourself and understand why, that's really when it comes to life.
As a result, Tucker is essentially a different player now than he was during his first stint in the Association:
When I was in Toronto, I wasn't half the player I am now.
First and foremost, I'm going to help the young guys and always be a positive voice in the locker room. I look at myself as a defensive player first but I can rebound and handle the ball.
I just stick my neck out and play hard. I never let anyone outwork me.
Both Tucker and Texas fans can only hope that his second stint is more than twice as successful as first, armed as he is now with increased maturity and a skillset that profiles him as a quintessential role player.