Annual tournament commemorates former Lion Chris Tucker

Cody Dyer / Staff Writer

Plenty of talented players have come to play basketball at Missouri Southern State University. Many have gone on to be successful in both their personal and professional lives.

 One player, though, will always hold a special place in the heart and mind of veteran Missouri Southern men’s basketball coach Robert Corn.

 Missouri Southern is off to another sizzling start heading into MIAA play, and even though a new generation has an opportunity to leave their legacy, there should be no downplaying just how important it is to remember the life of Chris Tucker.

 Tucker, an All-American at Missouri Southern killed in an automobile accident approximately 16 years ago, now rests in the hearts of his family and friends, not to mention Corn. Listen to him talk about Tucker, and you’ll quickly recognize the lasting impact he had on people.

 “One of my favorite stories is when we took the team to play in a tournament in the Bahamas,” Corn said. “They had a party for all of the teams by the pool. There was music playing and all of the teams were just standing around looking at each other. I looked up and Chris was up and dancing to the music. He got a female to dance with him and before I knew it all of the players were dancing.

 “That was the type of leader he was but more importantly that was how he viewed life by having fun.”

 Missouri Southern and the Lions honor Chris Tucker annually by hosting the Freeman Sports Medicine/Chris Tucker Memorial Classic. The Tucker family, as always, returned to Joplin for this year’s Chris Tucker Memorial Classic.

 “Having the Tucker family back is always very special,” Corn said. “Chris was such an outstanding person, and as good of a basketball player that he was, he was a better person.

 “We all live a better life because of our association with Chris. Chris’s dad speaks to the teams and it is always well received by all of the teams. I know our team looks forward to it each year.”

 Nearly five years after Chris’ death, his brother Michael died in another tragic accident. But Harvey Tucker’s story is of inspiration rather than sorrow. Not many families have had to deal with as much pain as the Tucker’s, but they’re not going to ask for your tears.

 “This is not an easy job,” Harvey Tucker, Chris Tucker’s father, said, “but I’ve learned to live with it over the years.”

 The Tucker’s represent what we, as individuals and families, really can do when we face adversity. For Harvey and his family, the loss of their two sons made them stronger. Now, they bring a voice of inspiration to the players and inspire them to be their best on and off the court.

 Harvey wanted to see Chris embrace life to his fullest when he chose Missouri Southern.

“He came (to Missouri Southern) on a visit,” Harvey explained, “and came back home and said, ‘Dad, I know where I’m going.’ I asked where is that? He said he was going to Missouri Southern.

 “Later when I got off work, Coach Corn was at my house and he signed him to attend Missouri Southern. My advice to him, once he made up his mind, was to finish his degree and that’s what he did.”

 The Lions posted a pair of convincing victories over Central Bible and College of the Ozarks in this season’s Chris Tucker Memorial Classic, which pleased Corn.

 “We played two quality opponents in Central Bible and College of the Ozarks,” Corn said, adding both teams were well coached. “We had to guard them for 20-25 seconds each possession which will only help us.”

 It’s easy to forget, sometimes, how fortunate we are to have family and friends until something tragic takes place. Harvey Tucker’s message today is for all of us to embrace the right to life.

“I walk in the memory of these two men,” he said