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Uptown 'Hoops Legend,' Father Fatally Shot Sunday Night

By Josh McGhee | October 17, 2016 4:57pm | Updated on October 17, 2016 5:47pm
 Greg Tucker Jr., of Uptown, played for Lincoln Park High School and Chicago State University, friends said.
Greg Tucker Jr., of Uptown, played for Lincoln Park High School and Chicago State University, friends said.
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UPTOWN — For years, Greg Tucker Jr.'s Saturday routine included a trip to the Clarendon Park Field House for a morning hoops session.

Sunday night, the 25-year-old, who played basketball for Whitney Young and Lincoln Park High School, was fatally shot just a few blocks away from the community center in Uptown.

"He was here every Saturday. Bright and early for open gym. He's been coming here since he was a kid. Everyone seemed to know him up here," said Althea Adejudge, who works the front desk at the field house at 4501 N. Clarendon Ave.

Around 8:50 p.m., Tucker was driving southbound in the 4500 block of North Hazel Street when he was shot in his head. He was taken to Illinois Masonic Medical Center in critical condition, said Officer Laura Amezaga, a Chicago Police spokeswoman. He was later pronounced dead.

Witnesses told Uptown Update someone in a silver car pulled up next to his black car near the intersection of Windsor Avenue and Hazel Street and fired 5-6 shots.

He was one of two people shot over the weekend in Uptown, including a 24-year-old man shot Saturday evening in the 1100 block of West Wilson Avenue.

"I only heard good things about him," Adejudge said of Tucker. "It's just unfortunate. He seemed like he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. [Gangbanging] was not his MO. It's just sad."

Adejudge said Tucker was also "a good dad" to his young daughter.

Daniel Poneman knew Tucker since they were kids playing basketball for the Fellowship of Afro American Men Youth Basketball League, or FAAM. Though he was a year older than Tucker, they were drafted on the same squad.

"He was immediately one of our best players. He was long, athletic and loved to score," Poneman said.

Over the years, Tucker earned a reputation as a gym rat, playing on several teams and any court on the North Side he could, Poneman said.

"He just loved playing ball. ... Greg literally played on every team and ever league he could in Chicago," he said.

Tucker started his high school career at Whitney Young, but transferred to Lincoln Park High School. He went on to play college ball at several locales.

Pat Gordon, who coached Tucker at Lincoln Park High School, said he was "a really good kid from a really good family," and Tucker wasn't into gangs.

Aside from being a very talented basketball player, he remembered Tucker as "a smart kid" who was hardworking, funny and witty.

In 2009, the Tribune named him and his teammate at Lincoln Park, Mike Gabriel, as "players to watch" at the annual Big Dipper Tournament.

With just a couple seconds left in one of the games, Lincoln Park drew up a play that ended in a wide open layup for Tucker, Gabriel said.

"He missed the layup and I got the tip-in," Gabriel said Monday, adding he remembered Tucker immediately thanking him for that.

"With the ball in Greg's hand, I'm confident the ball will go to the right place," Gabriel remembered telling a reporter after the game.

Gabriel said he grew up playing with Tucker since "before puberty," playing pickup games at Loyola Park and living around the corner from each other pretty much their whole lives.

"To be a part of that was something special," he said, adding when he transferred to the same high school "we already knew who he was and we all knew how good of a player he was."

From 2010-2012, Tucker played at North Dakota State College of Science, a junior college, before transferring to Division I Chicago State University. At Chicago State as a junior, the 6-foot-2-inch guard averaged 7 points per game.

While Poneman didn't see Tucker as often as he used to, they kept in touch via text and social media. Poneman said he heard about his death Monday through social media and the basketball community.

"I was shocked, but every month it seems we" lose another basketball player to gun violence in Chicago, he said. "A lot of times, it's a shock, but not surprising. It still hasn't really set in because he wasn't involved in gangs at all. I never expected this to happen to Greg at all."

Usually when people see an African-American male fatally shot in Chicago people believe he's a gangbanger, but Tucker "was an innocent dude," Poneman said.

"The first person I thought about was his dad. That was his pride and joy," he said.

Uptown native and overseas basketball star Bobby Dixon in a Facebook post said Tucker "didn't deserve that."

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