Three years ago, we knew Treye Tucker was bound to be a star on the basketball court. The 5’9″ point guard caught and managed to keep our attention with his moves on the hardwood, when we was only a freshman on Christian Life’s varsity team.
He made the move to Harlem during his sophomore year, after he wasn’t meeting Christian Life’s academic standards. He was also kept out of the loop on who the team’s new head coach would be. Looking at Harlem, Tucker already had a good relationship in place with Mike Winters, so it seemed like a natural fit.
“A head coach and the point guard are always going to be close,” Winters said. “We deal with brutal honesty sometimes when things aren’t going well. We don’t have a lot of time to sugar coat it. We talk about that a lot.”
Things weren’t going well for Tucker last year, when he battled mono, on top of a knee injury. But even then, it wasn’t a question of if Tucker would come back strong again – it was when.
“We knew how talented he was,” Winters admitted. “It didn’t really kind of hit us ’til this summer ’til we really knew what we had.”
With lots of time and sleep to recover, Tucker decided to ball out his senior year. He’s one of the NIC-10’s top scorers.
“I’m definitely just used to my performance already,” Tucker said. “Last year I wasn’t used to that, but I feel like since I got my time and rest, I knew I was going to come back strong.”
Watching Tucker’s basketball highlights on TV, you wouldn’t necessarily know there’s a lot more behind the 18-year-old’s impressive stats.
Earlier in January, Tucker revealed a new tattoo that says, “God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.” As a Christian, he does his best to give back to his community. But since 7th grade, he’s gone above and beyond with his shoe-charity, “Sole Ballers”. Tucker and his family collect donated shoes to give back to those in need… ranging from communities in Illinois, to Texas, and beyond. As if the charity itself isn’t already something to be proud of, the story of how it got started is even better.
“My mom came home one day and I asked her for a new pair of Jordan’s,” Tucker explained. “She told me the story about this kid at our school – it was during the winter time – and she had holes in her shoes. She got frost bite on her feet because of the snow and how cold it was, so I went upstairs and I grabbed a pair of my shoes. It just so happened that we wore the same size at the time, and I gave my mom the shoes to give her and that’s kind of where the idea took off.”
“A lot of kids don’t get to play at a high level when it comes to AAU and travel ball because it’s so expensive and those that do, sometimes have to choose to pay their fees and [are] not always able to afford the shoes and things like that,” Winters explained. “I think his experiences kind of pushed him to where he just realized it was just a need and you have kids who barely use shoes. Like my kid outgrows them so fast, they’re almost brand new when we’re passing them along. So I think it was just something that made a lot of sense and he and his family just did an awesome job putting it together.”
Tucker estimates his family receives around a couple thousand shoes every month. You can do the math from there, but we know that’s definitely a lot of shoes. They often times cover shipping costs too.
“It has surprised me a little bit [that it’s continued this long],” Tucker admitted. “When I first started it, I didn’t think it was going to last that long. I was young and immature, just going through the motions, just doing it to do it. But now that I’m mature and I realize how much that it’s helping people, I’m definitely thankful that I’m helping so many people, and I’m thankful that it’s gone this long, so I hope it can continue as I go on into college.”
Speaking of college, Tucker says while he’s had a lot of offers to continue playing at the next level, he’s most interested in Trevecca Nazarene University, out in Nashville. The long distance from home doesn’t phase Tucker though.
“[In] AAU, I traveled a lot,” Tucker explained. “I was home for like three weeks in the summer. It was a little rough on my mom, [but] I’m getting kind of used to it, [so] I’m happy because I’m going to ease my way into it.”
Even if it plays just a small part, providing those basketball shoes to kids in need could be the difference between helping them reach the same heights that Tucker has.
“He usually thinks about everybody but himself first and [is] just one of those guys you just really enjoy and love coaching,” Winters said.
Tucker may be well-known on the court, but with just a few months left in high school, he hopes he’s remembered another way.
“I just want them to remember my personality off the court, not just always on the court,” Tucker said. “[Because] I know sometimes people don’t like me on the court, just ’cause of how I’m built, but I’m a real nice guy off the court. You should get to know me and don’t judge me.”