Just like most little kids, ever since he started playing basketball Johnny Rucker has dreamed of making it to the NBA. And like most little kids soon realize as they get older, NBA opportunities are very, very hard to come by. But Rucker has come to learn (like many ball players do) that the NBA is not the only place where a player can earn a living playing the game they love.
With a plethora of overseas basketball leagues available, if you have the talent, you can definitely make a living playing basketball. Former Yazoo City High School basketball players Jontaveous Sulton and Demarco Cox are currently hooping overseas in Luxembourg and France respectively.
Since graduating from Mississippi College in 2016, Rucker has been eagerly waiting for a team to reach out to him. That process can be stressful the longer it takes and, after a while it can feel like it the opportunity will never come. For Rucker, who worked for the Yazoo City Police Department while waiting on his opportunity, the wait is finally over.
Rucker will be heading to Frankfurt, Germany this weekend after signing a contract to play for TVO Biggesee in the German professional league.
“I’m still kind of in shock knowing that I’m going to play professionally overseas seeing as how I was an underdog coming out of high school and kind of a late bloomer,” said Rucker. “Since I left MC the journey has been rough and there were times when I thought about hanging up my shoes, but my agent kept his faith in me and he told me all I have to do is stay motivated and I would have a deal within a year. Thankfully, things are starting to work out.”
Rucker averaged 13 points, five rebounds and four assists per game in his final season at Mississippi College. His penchant for scoring the basketball was evident to Choctaw fans, but it began years ago at Woolfolk Middle School.
“There’s a phrase that coaches use to describe a player who shoots the ball a lot. We say that player never met a shot he didn’t like,” says Rucker’s former middle school coach Joffre Washington. “Well, that was Johnny in a nutshell. My assistant coach John Meeks even gave him the nickname “Gunslinger”. Even back then he loved shooting the ball. Now defense was another matter all-together. But offensively, there wasn’t a shot he wouldn’t try. There’s a difference in a shot-taker and a shot-maker though. Coaches prefer shot-makers and that’s what he’s developed into. He has a complete game now where he can score inside and out. It’s been a joy to see his game blossom into where it is now and I wish him nothing but the best.”
Rucker had a stellar career at Yazoo City High School under legendary coach Archie Carlyle where he began to make a name for himself as a relentless worker.
“He was always a hard worker and it’s his work ethic that’s going to give him a chance to succeed,” said Carlyle. “Ever since I’ve known him he’s been that way. He may not have always been the top player but he worked to become the top player and it’s that kind of drive that’s going to serve him well now. He may not be the top guy when he gets over there, but I know he’s going to be working every day to become the best player on that team. He’s always wanted an opportunity and now that he has it, I think his work ethic is going to help him succeed.”
After graduating high school, Rucker attended Mississippi Delta Community College for two years before going to Mississippi College. Rucker has had countless coaches and mentors over the course of his career, all who have helped shape him into the person and player he is today.
“I would like to thank all my coaches that gave me the knowledge I have today starting with the man who made it all happen, Coach Johnny Staples,” says Rucker. “I want to thank Coach Joffre Washington for giving me an opportunity to be a part of his team and for taking me to travel with AAU basketball. I need to thank Coach Archie Carlyle for bringing out the best in me and just being tough on me when I was out of line. I want to thank Coach Deon Burns and Coach Mario Edwards for being so straightforward with me about my game and ways that I could improve. Lastly, I must thank my AAU coach Ted Hutchins for giving me the opportunity to be a part of his organization (Mississippi Ballers).
Rucker now prepares to begin a new chapter in his life in a distant place. Making such a move is a tough decision as one must leave family, friends and loved ones behind. But Rucker is confident he is making the right decision.
Added Rucker: “This was a hard decision for me but I talked with my family about it and decided that an opportunity like this only comes around once in a lifetime and only a select few from Yazoo City have done it. It’s a special opportunity for me and I’m going to take full advantage of it.”