Talen Horton-Tucker Wins PHI Player of Year
Congratulations to Simeon senior small forward Talen Horton-Tucker on winning the PrepHoopsIllinois Player of the Year Award. In the regular season THT averaged 20.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. We take a look back at his career, recruitment, dominant senior campaign, and future at Iowa State!
First Time Watching Talen Horton-Tucker
The first time we were able to see Horton-Tucker play was at the prestigious Fab Frosh Camp in Atlanta featuring some of the best players in the country. Looking back at the field there were tons of future top 100 prospects at the event that would go on to play high-major basketball. THT wasn’t at the same level as those players at that time. I remember texting Simeon coach Robert Smith and he said he was going to be one of the next big prospects for the Wolverines. Here was our first ever evaluation of him along with the first time we ever interviewed him.
Horton-Tucker struggled with injuries throughout the camp, but this big bodied guard showed some tools to work with. He is a solid perimeter shooter that can get his shot off with ease. The 6’0” guard is also a good rebounder for his position.
Evolution of THT
It was a steady evolution for Horton-Tucker throughout his high school and travel team career. His work ethic is one of biggest things that will stand out to me about his legacy as a prospect and high school basketball player. Most of the time with big time prospects the first time you see them at a young age they blow you away with physical tools, skill, and athleticism. That wasn’t the case here. He worked for every single thing he has gotten. The first time the 2018 class was ranked by PHI I believe he was somewhere in the early 20’s. You could tell he had the skill, but didn’t have quite the “prospect” look and wasn’t dominant yet. I remember Talen asking me one time did I think he had a chance to be one of the best players in his class and if he could be ranked ahead of one of his teammates at the time. I told him that if he continued to work on his body and develop his game that he has the skill to be one of the best in his class. We saw the improvement starting that July heading into his sophomore season at Summer Jam.
“One of the biggest improvements from spring to summer was seen out of this Simeon wing. The big bodied small forward has slimmed down and gotten considerably more athletic over the last few months. He was consistently slashing to the hoop and using his physicality to score in the paint. Horton-Tucker is also a solid catch and shoot guy from three. Hit the offensive glass for put backs with his long arms. Great showing out of him!”
He was definitely starting to trend in the right direction. The first time we saw him in a varsity game was at the Chicago Elite Classic at the beginning of his sophomore season. It was obvious the athleticism and game were making big steps forward.
“The 6’3” shooting guard has continued to elevate his game during the spring and summer. Horton-Tucker’s role will be a little more limited for the Wolverines, but he definitely made an impact. The most impressive thing that the sophomore did was get up for two emphatic blocks. His athleticism has come so far in the last year. Also had a nice dish to Josh Thomas. In limited minutes and without taking a shot he still made an impact on the game.”
What was starting to standout was that out of all the hyped Simeon 2018’s he was the only one playing with the veteran stars in the 2016 class. They trusted him. The players and Rob Smith. He was the one that was producing and continued to get better each time out that season! Toward the end of that sophomore campaign he showed up making some key plays in their game against rival Morgan Park.
“Solid all-around game for the 6’5” sophomore who continues to see his stock rise. The forward hit a wing three and converted a couple crafty finishes in the paint. Also connected on a mid-range jumper. Passed the ball extremely well with good decision making and feel. Grabbed some key rebounds. He had 9 points. D1 prospect for sure.”
His stock continued to rise heading into the critical spring/summer between sophomore and junior year. He was impressive at Swish N Dish proving he was not only one of the more productive players in his class, but now he was also one of the top prospects in the group as well. He showed well in multiple other evals in Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne earning him a ranking as the top small forward prospect in the state heading into July.
“Horton-Tucker has completely evolved in his game over the last year. He has slimmed down, gotten more athletic, and displayed his versatility. Horton-Tucker can beat defenses with his spot up three point shooting and crafty finishes in traffic. Stat sheet stuffer that is also a plus rebounder. Steady climb lands Horton-Tucker as the top small forward in the state.”
After that summer was over he earned a spot on the All-State 16U Grassroots team and had established himself as a prospect that college coaches needed to have squarely on their radar at the mid-major plus level and high-major levels. The true national breakout began at the beginning of his junior high school season. A year before at Chicago Elite Classic he showed flashes, now it was his time!
“THT proved on the big stage that he was ready to be the go to scorer for the Wolverines. The big and physical 6’5” junior has a strong body, but is also a good athlete that carries his strength well. What you have to like about Horton-Tucker is his versatility and skill level. He plays with a high basketball IQ and makes winning basketball plays. Horton-Tucker is a crafty driver that uses fakes and hesitation to keep the defense guessing. Showed some explosion off the bounce on a couple drives. Good body control at the rim. Was kind of streaky from three in this one although that is one of his strengths. Plus passer that is more than willing to kick to the open man when the defense collapses on him. Horton-Tucker was a man on the boards. He is one of the tallest players on Simeon and even though he will be a wing at the next level he has to board for his high school team to be successful. He did just that! Horton-Tucker had 26 points (10-14 FG), 14 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. He solidified a high-major status with this performance.”
That was the moment where scouts and college coaches realized how truly good this kid was becoming. He would continue that throughout his junior season being the go to player for a Wolverines team that won the city championship and reached the state title game where they lost to Whitney Young. He started off the spring with a bang showing again he was a name to be known on the national scene.
“The state’s #3 2018 prospect continues to elevate his game every time we see him. Horton-Tucker had good size at 6’5” with broad shoulders. It looks like he has slimmed down even more since we last saw him during the season. Fluid ball handler that gets where he wants on the floor. Jump shot started to fall with more consistency throughout the event. Had a couple impressive mid-range jumpers including a baseline fade away. THT connected on three point shots from beyond the arc at a nice clip. Also looked good in transition. One he snatched a defensive rebound and went coast to coast for a finish at the other end. Also had a posterizing one handed jam! High-major prospect that should be considered at top 100 player nationally.”
Despite his high level of play both on the circuit and during his junior year his national ranking didn’t continue to rise like it should. He was productive in the EYBL and his recruitment was starting to pick up at the high-major level. By that time he had established himself as the #2 overall prospect in the class. Late that spring THT decided to leave the Mac Irvin Fire and pursue options with other teams in July. Then in July he absolutely put on a show with Team Rose! He took it to another stratosphere in St. Louis in a game against Brad Beal Elite.
“THT gave us one of the best performances of the summer at Lindenwood University. In a packed house with college coaches lined up on the sideline Team Rose played a showcase game vs Bradley Beal Elite (EYBL) Saturday evening. Horton-Tucker brought out his full arsenal in the second half of the game. It started with a pair of three pointers and from there the floodgates opened for Talen. It seemed like every time he touched the ball he looked to attack and score and he did it in such a smooth fashion. Talen broke guys down off the dribble and finished at the rim. So crafty he backed guys down and shot one foot step back fade aways on defenders. Any type of way you think a person can score Talen did it. All in the second half of the game. THT scored 32 points and lead Team Rose to a double figure victory over Brad Beal Elite.”
The first school to step forward and give THT a scholarship offer was UIC in April heading into his junior season. DePaul and Iowa State would come calling later that summer. Before his junior season began other schools that offered included Loyola, Northwestern, Missouri, and Toledo. It had definitely picked up, but things didn’t really get going until after his junior campaign and final spring where he landed scholarships from Illinois, Xavier, Texas A&M, and Ohio State among others. He was taking his time with the process. THT did an unofficial visit tour across the Midwest with his mom during June to check out schools more extensively heading into July. After his big month with Team Rose he reeled in some more big offers including Michigan State, Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Kansas, Florida State, Minnesota, and others. Things were starting to take shape.
On August 27 he cut his list to 13 schools. He told PHI why 13 schools. “Because that’s how old I was when my grandmother passed away and I know she would’ve been an important part in my decision so 13 was the number I wanted.” Those schools were Illinois, Michigan State, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Kansas, St. Louis, Dayton, Mizzou, Iowa State, Ohio State, Xavier, Georgetown, and Michigan. The feeling going into the visits was that the main players were Xavier, Iowa State, and Michigan State. Other schools had some buzz, but those three had the most. He would take official visits to starting in late October to Xavier, Georgia Tech, Iowa State, and then Illinois. Each a week apart. After the Xavier and Iowa State visits it seemed like a two team battle for his services. He visited Illinois and was blown away on the visit. They had definitely made a late surge. For those of you that follow recruiting you know what happened next and this isn’t the place to go into it. On October 26 the Simeon standout made his pledge to attend Iowa State and signed there in November. Iowa State is getting a fantastic playmaker in the mold of many of their past stars. He has Big 12 Player of the Year written all over him at the next level!
His play this year is why THT is getting the award so we should probably get into that! Simeon came into the season as the preseason #1 team, but they weren’t a lock as the best team. The “Big 5” CPS powers were all loaded with upperclassmen talent and it seemed like this year would be one of those seasons where it was going to be evenly balanced between them. Horton-Tucker made a statement in his first game of the season that his team was the best and he was the best player. He had 21 points and 11 rebounds against St. Louis powerhouse Chaminade. His high level of play continued throughout the first half of the season both at home against Chicago teams where they didn’t lose a regular season game all year and on the road against national competition. At the City of Palms he was a superstar against the best competition in the country. We saw him at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament where he captured MVP honors while leading the Wolverines to a championship beating both Curie and Danville along the way. In the title game he had 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 dimes.
THT would lead Simeon to a win against stacked Memphis East in early January where he scored 24 points in a primetime performance. He went head to head with the nation’s top prospect RJ Barrett finishing with 26 points and 10 boards in a narrow loss to the best team in the country at HoopHall. Followed that up with a 24 point outing in a highly anticipated #1 vs #2 game against Curie leading his team to a win. Then it was time to finish off the deal and complete the three peat as city champs. Once again it was Talen who stepped up when it mattered most. In the semifinals against rival Whitney Young he recorded 16 points and 9 boards. He put on a show to remember for a long time with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 blocks in the championship.
The thing I will remember the most about this season for THT is how dominant he was from start to finish. He did absolutely whatever his team needed him to do and he stepped up to every challenge placed in front of him. Once again congratulations to Talen Horton-Tucker on winning the PrepHoopsIllinois Player of the Year Award!