University of Toledo men's basketball coach Gene Cross feels that a big part of having a successful program hinges on the play of the guards.
"I like the idea of having good guards and good ball handlers," Cross said. "There will be primary ball handlers and secondary ball handlers. The most important thing is to have good guard play."
That philosophy led Cross to make his first two UT signees guards who have played both the point and shooting guard positions. Shooting guard Stephen Albrecht of Crown Point, Ind., and point guard Ed Tucker of Saginaw, Mich., and Highland Community College signed national letters-of-intent this week to play for the Rockets next season.
UT's 2008-09 recruiting class stands at four players, with Larry Bastfield and Zac Taylor having signed last November.
Tucker, 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, averaged 9.7 points and four assists per game on a team that finished 28-5 and has six players going on to Division I programs next year. His team won the NJCAA Region IV title and he was named second-team All-Arrowhead Conference.
"At any given point in time he had so many people that were involved [in the offense]," Cross said. "That's good because he knows how to play a team brand of basketball. He's ready and willing to wear whatever hat I put on his head.
"He's going to provide a level of toughness on both ends of the floor that you have to have to be successful."
Tucker first encountered Cross in high school when Cross was recruiting his friend, Tory Jackson, to play at Notre Dame. Tucker played both guard positions at Saginaw Arthur Hill High School but concentrated on point guard at Highland, which is in Freeport, Ill. Tucker's younger brother, Dar, plays for DePaul.
"I'm really just trying to come in and win," Tucker said. "I think the coach will be a good fit for me."
Albrecht, 6-3 and 185 pounds, averaged 17.9 points and 3.3 rebounds in leading Crown Point High School to its first sectional title in 10 years his senior year. He shot 38 percent from 3-point range and averaged 19 points his junior year.
"He's been placed in situations where he's had to take big shots and make big baskets, and score big-time," Cross said. "You want somebody who has been in those positions so they can duplicate them in your program.
"You can label him a shooter, but he can do other things. He can handle the ball, he can run a club. He can rebound a little bit."
When Cross was hired, Albrecht said his AAU coach, Wayne Brumm, called Cross and told him about Albrecht. Assistant Brian Loyd checked into his background and the coaches liked what they saw.
Albrecht played some point guard last year in high school and AAU ball.
He's made adjustments throughout his career as opposing teams have scouted him, but he said he's been always been known for his shooting.
"[Cross] said he demands a lot from his players, but he feels I can shoot the ball well enough to do what I can to help the team, especially with the 3-point line moving back next year," Albrecht said.
Cross has at least one more scholarship available and might use it for the upcoming class. He has another player coming for an official visit this weekend.
"We're going to keep on recruiting and fill spots as necessary," Cross said. "If nobody comes about that fits with our style, then we won't fill it. If it happens, then so be it."
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