'Awesome opportunity:' UConn's Morgan Tuck settling into new business role for Connecticut Sun

Morgan Tuck wasn’t necessarily planning on retiring, but her body still didn’t feel right as she began to ramp up for training camp ahead of the 2021 WNBA season.

“I just knew I wouldn’t be able to play at a high level,” Tuck said. “I knew it was time to start a new chapter and move on to something else.”

While Tuck was nervous because she didn’t know what to do next, it wasn’t long before an opportunity presented itself.

In May, Tuck returned to the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, the franchise that drafted her out of UConn. The newly appointed director of franchise development is tasked with leading the team’s community outreach program.

“I was really fortunate that this job was being created,” Tuck said Thursday on Zoom. “I had a couple people reach out just to gauge my interest and see if I wanted to do it. Right when I heard about it, I knew it’d be an awesome opportunity.”

She’s learning to appreciate all aspects of the job, even if it’s different from what she planned to be doing at this point in her life.

“I always thought about basketball. I just wanted to play forever, until I could never play,” said Tuck, who turned 27 in April. “But you never think about timing. You just want to play basketball. As I got a little older, when I was in college and started to think about what I wanted to do, the business side was always an interest just because I didn’t know much about it and I didn’t know all that went into it.”

Knee problems hampered Tuck throughout her career, starting in high school when she tore her left ACL. Tuck then missed most of her sophomore year at UConn to have her right knee surgically repaired. Though she was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA, she opted to turn pro after the Huskies won their record fourth straight national championship in 2016.

Breanna Stewart (Seattle), Moriah Jefferson (San Antonio), and Tuck became the first three players from the same school to be drafted with the first three picks in WNBA history.

While she wishes she could’ve played longer, Tuck says she’s proud of all she accomplished during her career.

“Even though it was tough at times, it was amazing,” Tuck said. “I’ve had the best moments of my life during my basketball career. I know I’m not that old, so hopefully I have some other great moments.”

Tuck won a WNBA championship in her final season with the Seattle Storm, appearing in 10 games. She averaged 1.7 points in 8.8 minutes off the bench.

“That was like the perfect ending,” Tuck said with a laugh. “I’ll take it.”

She averaged 5.4 points and 2.3 rebounds between 2016-19 with the Sun, but was limited by knee issues. She played in a career-high 34 games in 2018, which she credited at the time to new exercise and diet routines.

In 125 games over five seasons, Tuck had 642 points, 273 rebounds, and 97 assists.

Now, she’s back to a familiar place.

“Connecticut’s definitely my home away from home. I’ve spent more time in Connecticut than anywhere else except where I grew up,” said Tuck, who was a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school in Illinois. “There’s a level of comfort. I knew coming back, especially to Mohegan where I got to spend a lot of time even playing here in college, you just get to know people that work here, even if it’s some of the security guys or people in IT or HR.

“To see people are excited that I’m here and very welcoming, it just made the transition a little bit easier.”

Tuck knows a few faces on the current Sun roster from her playing days, and she’s kept in touch with her coaches from UConn.

“They know it’s a big transition,” Tuck said of UConn head coach Geno Auriemma and associate head coach Chris Dailey. “It’s a big difference when you’re going into the regular working world. They were super helpful. They let me use them as references on my resume and everything. I reached out to other former players and some current players just to get some advice or things I should keep in mind.”

Work, of course, is keeping Tuck busy. She’s invested a lot of time into “Change Can’t Wait,” a social justice campaign focused on fighting racism and inequality.

“Now it’s really about just getting out into the community and just trying to start creating those relationships and hopefully partner for something bigger in the future,” Tuck said.

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour