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Newport Independent - Newport, AR
  • Rucker to continue legacy at Holmes

  • "Your legacy is the most important thing.  Your legacy lasts forever," Coach Leighton McCrary said recently when discussing recently graduated E.J. Rucker, Newport's All-Everything hardcourt hero.

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  • "Your legacy is the most important thing.  Your legacy lasts forever," Coach Leighton McCrary said recently when discussing recently graduated E.J. Rucker, Newport's All-Everything hardcourt hero.
    Rucker's legacy will live long and prosper around Newport High School as he culminated his career with another All-State selection and finished as the state's third all-time leading scorer with 2,030 points.
    The sweet-shooting southpaw recently signed a National Letter-of-Intent to continue his basketball career at Holmes Community College in Goodman, Miss.
    "This is not a slight at E.J.," McCrary explained.  "A lot of people see junior college as a desperation move, but this is something that we sat down, studied and decided was the best route for E.J."
    Rucker, a four-year starter for the Greyhounds, agreed with his coach and mentor.
    "They offered me a full ride.  A bunch of people that I was talking to said it was a good junior college to go to.  I went to work out for UCA and A-State and they told to go put on some weight and they would pick me up after my first year," Rucker explained.
    While the offer from Holmes turned out to be a match for Rucker, full offers from Western Arizona, a junior college in Shawnee, Ill. and another school in Colorado where tempting, but in the end, ties won out.
    "Mississippi was closer.  Being close to home was a big factor but I liked the style of play.  It is also a small school and I will be able to focus there.  It was very peaceful."
    The school, which sits approximately three and a-half hours from Newport, is coached Jason Flanigan, the son of legendary Little Rock Parkview coach Al Flanigan.
    "The head coach there is the son of the head coach at Parkview, Al Flanigan, and he kind of knew about him so hopefully because he has his test scores and his grades, if he does well his first year then he can sign with a Division I school or something," McCrary said.
    "There is no doubt in my mind that he can play at A-State or UCA.  I think he is up to a mid-major player."
    Rucker's plans for his future fit McCrary's.
    "If I do well my first year at Holmes, I won't be there two years.  When I went to A-State they asked me if I wanted to go both years or go one and come back to them with a full ride for three years.  And that is what I want to do," Rucker explained.
    McCrary describes Rucker as a scoring machine and notes that Holmes is getting a "very, very, very good basketball player," but the former college coach thinks that his best days are in front of him as a basketball player.
    Page 2 of 3 - "I think E.J. needs to work on being more of a true point guard and running the show. He is just a scorer because he had to do all of that for us.  You can be a scoring point guard but at times you have to slow things down and get people in the right position and set things up.  Once he gets on a higher level it is going to be a change."
    McCrary continued, "We didn't have anyone to average 15-17 points with him.  If we had had that it would have made him a better all-around player because he would have been able to pass off and get some scoring consistency from other people.  It was all on him."  
    "As he goes to college, he will have that and it will help his overall game.  Because there are going to be some players there with him.  It will make him a much better player."
    The head Hound notes that he does not understand why coaches shied away from the multi-talented scorer - other than his size - which Rucker uses daily as motivation.
    "One of the reasons that I play as hard and am as committed as I am to basketball is because people doubt me and I want to play to the best of my ability so that I can do something with my life," he noted.
    Coaches for the Bulldogs of Holmes have told Rucker that he would most likely start or be the sixth man while playing both guard positions, according to McCrary.
    Rucker's legacy and the relationship between he and his coach has come full circle, the player said of his mentor.
    "I am thinking about going into physical education and be a coach, be like Coach Mac, Jr," Rucker says with his infectious smile.
    The humbled McCrary was touched and fully expects Rucker to become everything he can be.
    "He was always very humble when he played, never complained and was always consistent.  That comes from me, as far as what I expect of him, but mainly that comes from home - his mother, his brother, his sister.  His brother has a degree from UCA and that is a great example for him so that he knows he can do the same thing," McCrary said.
    "You have to get your degree, be a model citizen, start a family and that type thing.  I think he is on that road.  It is kind of a storybook ending but I think that is what you want for anyone who wants to go to college.  You have to know what you want and I think he knows that.  He has always been a good student and he has always wanted to be challenged in the classroom, so I think he is ready."
    Page 3 of 3 - Another protege of the head basketball coach has him full of pride.
    "That is an honor for him to talk about me like that in this life.  My son, Donovan, says he wants to be a coach. o my legacy as it has spilled over to those guys is that they want to try to help some kids too.  That is what it is about - bottom line.  Because he said that makes me think that I've done my job."
    Rucker attests that the elder McCrary has done his job very well.
    "I want to thank Coach Mac, my mother (Pansy), my brother (Dallas Neal) and thank God for giving me my talents.  Without any of those in my life, I would not be where I am today."
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