RIPLEY • Ripley senior Cam Rucker knew he didn't want his basketball career to end. So when Millsaps College called to offer him a spot on their men's basketball team, Rucker didn't flinch at the opportunity.
Rucker committed to play basketball at Millsaps on the NCAA Division 3 level last Thursday, April 2.
"It's relieving really,” said Rucker on ending the recruitment process. "It's a great feeling knowing all the work you put in didn't go to waste. Only a handful of people put in that type of work and now I know it won't be in vain. It's a weight off of my shoulders for me and my family. That is a lot of money that won't have to be paid now for my schooling. This opportunity is something I don't take lightly."
"They believed in me more than I believed in myself at times,” added Rucker on what led him to choosing Millsaps. "You know, throughout the season there is ups and downs. There was games that I didn't play well but their coach would still text me and tell me how much they still wanted me. It was more than basketball, they made it personal and talked to me about life and I think that made me gravitate towards them."
Rucker was an important part of a successful team in his senior year at Ripley. Rucker started at shooting guard, where he averaged 8.6 points, three rebounds, three assists and 1.5 steals per game as he helped the Tigers to a 28-4 record and a Class 4A semifinals appearance. He also shined in the areas not often noticed, leading the team with 26 charges and 51 total floor burns, a stat that Ripley keeps to gauge the hustle given on the floor.
"We are extremely proud of Cam to get this opportunity to continue playing the game he loves," said Ripley head coach Adam Kirk. "Millsaps is getting a student of the game. He loves to watch film and talk about the other team's personnel, their strengths and weaknesses. He is a competitive kid with a strong determination to be successful on and off the court. Plus, he is a winner. This year's senior class has amassed 104 wins to only 19 losses and he has been a major contributor to that success."
Kirk went on to add the value that Rucker brings in the classroom and to the community as well:
"I am probably more proud of what Cam has accomplished off the court," said Kirk. "He has a 4.0 GPA, is one of the top students in his class, and was nominated Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year as a junior. He is truly a student-athlete."
More than just the success the Tigers has this past season, Rucker was instrumental to Ripley's basketball program no matter what the role was in his four-year career. The two-time All-County selection was solid in his starting role in his junior and senior seasons. But playing sparingly as a sophomore and limited to junior varsity action as a freshman, Rucker put in the time and effort it takes to become a high level basketball player. That progression over the last four years is something he believes has prepared him for the collegiate level.
"Playing for Coach Kirk really has prepared me for this," claimed Rucker. "I call him a basketball genius. But beyond basketball, he was like a second father to me. He opened my eyes to more than basketball. Everything he did, it made me a better man."
"Cam's growth these past four years has been remarkable," Kirk added. "He has always known the game but made a commitment during his freshman year to transform his body to become the best player he could be. He became one of our hardest workers in the weight room, in practice, and outside of practice. He was a great practice player as a freshman, a role player as a sophomore, and was voted as a team captain his junior and senior years. He is a guy who trusted and was committed to the process. He could have easily transferred to play earlier but didn't and you can see his growth every year. He was our coach on the floor constantly communicating and putting guys in the positions they needed to be. He has led our team in hustle stats for two years in a row—charges and floor burns. Millsaps is getting a gritty leader with a strong work ethic who doesn't like to lose. He will represent Ripley High School and our basketball program well."
Millsaps went 17-10 this past season including an 8-6 mark in Southern Athletic Association (SAA) play. The Majors will graduate five seniors, paving a path for Rucker to see early playing time as a freshman.
"I'm going to come in and work hard, play defense, and do all the little things that I'm supposed to do," stated Rucker. "They told me that they see me coming in and getting buckets too. So maybe that opens up a scoring role there."
Rucker will be a business major during his time at Millsaps. He hopes to one day own a clothing store but if all else fails, his former coach thinks he can have a future in basketball.
"He is a kid who needs to know why we are doing things and is not afraid to voice his opinion," claimed Kirk. "He will be great in whatever he wants to do but I believe he destined to be a coach. He just thinks like a coach."