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Peterson: Talen Horton-Tucker answered media questions about everything — except Walmart

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Chicago Public League sensation and former Iowa State star says playing professionally in his hometown would be a great thing
Randy Peterson, rpeterson@dmreg.com

CHICAGO — The more reporters asked Talen Horton-Tucker about this week’s Walmart incident, the more he didn’t want to respond. Every which way, reporters gave the former Iowa State star a chance to explain his side of the fifth-degree petty theft to which he pleaded guilty. Each time, he predictably refused, but when asked if his reputation and/or character had been tarnished, he said softly:

“It can only hurt me.”

The Cyclones’ one-and-done freshman answered questions for about 10 minutes at the NBA Draft Combine Friday, inside the same multi-sport Quest Center complex in which he played games as a kid.

He talked about what he feels he can bring to the NBA, his dream of being a professional player, and what it would be like returning home to be a Chicago Bull.

“It would be a great thing,” he said. “As a kid, you look up to doing things like that. Going into the NBA, I’m ready to see whatever team drafts me. I want to play in the NBA, no matter what team drafts me.”

He said he’s met with 14 teams — teams that, yes, asked about what happened at the Ames Walmart last February.

“It’s something teams talked about,” he said. “I’m not supposed to (publicly) discuss it.”

He preferred to talk about what he can bring to the next level.

“Showing everybody how much of a (versatile player) I am,” he said. “I played a lot of positions. I can show my all-around guard skills.”

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He was asked about growing up playing in the rugged Chicago Public League — and how that prepared him for maybe being a one-and-done first-round draft choice.

“It was great,” he said. “Growing up in Chicago, you have to be tough to play basketball here. You’re not going to get any fouls called, so I feel that it prepared me for every level I played at.”

Steve Prohm wasn’t in Chicago, but via text, he said: “Talen’s a special kid. I loved coaching him. He had a tremendous freshman year for us, and was a big part of our teams’ success.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing where he’s drafted, and following his NBA career. Great things are ahead for him. He’s just tapping the surface of what he’s capable of.”

Horton-Tucker, in case you missed it, pleaded guilty to possession $15.93 worth of unscanned items at an Ames Walmart — something so common that Ames Police Cmdr. Jason Tuttle told the Register: “These petty thefts happen frequently at Walmart, especially with the self-scan checkouts, where people do not scan items and leave with them.”

What happened probably forced NBA teams to dig a little deeper into a background that included successfully overcoming the death of his father, grandmother and cousin.

“Losing those people in my life was the hardest thing I’ve been through in my life,” he said. “It’s hard to go through that so young. It shaped me into the young man I’m coming into today.”

The NBA scouts and team officials I talked to said what happened isn’t likely to affect him during the June 20 draft.

“If a team wants him when it’s their turn to pick, they’ll still take him,” a scout told me.

Here was another scout opinion:

“If it’s just a one-time incident, then it’ll not likely result in anything drastic — unless there’s more (incidents) in his background.”

One more?

“It’s a joke,” another scout told me, meaning that unscanned items totaling less than 16 bucks ending up in his plastic bag isn’t a big deal.

Horton-Tucker averaged 11.8 points and 4.9 rebounds for an Iowa State team that won the Big 12 Conference tournament and played in the NCAA Tournament. He scored inside, and he could score from outside, where he was a 30.8 percent three-point shooter. He started 33 of 34 games.

Iowa State’s last first-round draft choice, by the way, was Royce White to Houston in 2012.

Horton-Tucker was measured at 6-foot-4 in shoes by 234.4 pounds at the Combine. His wingspan was 7-1.25, which is above the norm by a bunch. He didn’t participate in the five-on-five scrimmages, but that’s not uncommon for clients of Rich Paul and his Klutch Sports Group.

Paul’s clients include LeBron James, Tristan Thompson, Draymond Green and now Horton-Tucker.

“Talen is an anomaly,” ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla said. “Four or five years ago, we’d have called him a tweener, and his stock would be low. Now, they’re called versatile, and that bodes well in a league that values versatility.

“He’s a talented enough player to be considered first-round pick. Now question, is where does he fit into schemes — is he a 2 or a 3? A guy with 7-1 wing span — can he play the 4?”

That’s up to the team that drafts him, but this isn’t in dispute — he doesn’t turn 19 until November.

“That right there is a reason he’s being looked at as a first-rounder,” a scout told me. “It’s not a great draft, after you get past the top four or five guys. It’s a draft where a guy with Talen’s ability and youth will get a good look.”

Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been with the Register for parts of five decades. Randy writes opinion and analysis of Iowa State football and basketball. You can reach Randy at rpeterson@dmreg.com or on Twitter at @RandyPete.

Source: Des Moines Register