Mark Tuckett receives Lehi Legacy honor
Former Lehi High School player Mark Tuckett was honored as this year’s Lehi Legacy award recipient at the Pioneer boysbasketball banquet on March 28. Tuckett led the Pioneers to the Class 2A championship in 1981 and was named the state MVP.
The presenters were Ken Wagner, who coached Tuckett during his high school and later collegiate careers, and Bob Barnes, one of his Pioneer teammates who is a former coach and present counselor at the school.
Before beginning his remarks about Tuckett, Wagner said he’s always had a soft spot for Lehi High School and has loved coming to games again since moving back to the area. He added that whenever his college teams would drive by the school, he’d have them put their hands over their hearts.
Following his retirement from BYU-Hawaii after 25 years coaching the Seasiders men’s basketball team, Wagner spent several years coaching a professional basketball team in Asia before returning to the United States and Utah Valley.
After leaving Lehi in 1986, Wagner spent five seasons coaching at the former Dixie State College prior to his move to BYU-Hawaii.
During that stretch one of his players was Quincy Lewis, Lehi’s present skipper. He also gave Lewis his start in coaching when he invited Lewis to become one of his assistants at BYU-Hawaii.
Wagner told a story about Lewis during his first season, when Dixie played a contest on the road at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. “We were surrounded by 5,000 fans in red sweaters and had been down or tied the whole game,” Wagner said.
The Hutchinson team had won the national championship in their division two years earlier and were ranked No. 1 in the preseason that year. It was the first tournament of the season in November and Dixie had a very young squad.
A true freshman, Lewis was listed as the No.3 point guard on the depth chart but had been moved up to the backup spot that day because the starter was injured. He was playing very well after he came in off the bench so the coach left him on the floor.
Dixie was trailing by two points with 15 seconds left on the clock. Lewis passed the ball to Lester Turner, and then Cliff Reed set a ball screen for Turner on the wing. Reed rolled to the basket and Hutchinson double-teamed Turner coming off the screen, leaving Lewis open.
Turner passed the ball and Lewis hit a 24-foot shot with two seconds remaining, handing Dixie a stunning 76-75 victory.
The capacity crowd, which had been going crazy just moments before, suddenly went dead silent. “They hadn’t lost a home game in two or three years,” Wagner said. And Lewis never came off the bench again.
Turning then to the topic at hand, Wagner said Tuckett was already a team leader and an example to everyone as a junior when the coach came to Lehi.
At some point, Wagner said he told Tuckett, “If you’re going to be really good, you have to make every layup in practice.”
He added that Tuckett came to him before the start of his senior year and pledged that he would do just that. “He didn’t miss one in practice that whole year, or in games either,” the coach said.
Wagner went on to talk about the state championship game in 1981 against Manti. The teams were tied 20-20 at the half, and Wagner said the Templar coach kept yelling to his players, “Don’t let that guy get ahead of you!”
He was referring to Tuckett, who netted a game-high 23 points to lead the Pioneers to a 66-60 victory, thus securing the gold trophy and cementing his place in Lehi basketball lore.
Tuckett also had an extraordinary game earlier in the season on Jan. 23, when No. 1-ranked Lehi went on the road to play No. 3 Intermountain in Brigham City. The Deseret News had tagged this contest as the game of the week, but the Pioneers won going away 91-71.
A 6-1 senior guard, Tuckett scored 45 points that night, including 11-of-11 at the charity stripe. He got an extraordinary 38 of those points in the first half, when Intermountain had combined for just 40.
It’s worth noting that it would still be years before the 3-point shot would be adopted, so he earned that tally the old-fashioned way.
“That Tuckett kid just ate us up in the first half. He made us look sick,” Intermountain Coach Gary Rohmer told Deseret News reporter Mike Sorenson, who also wrote that Tuckett’s scoring came from “all over the floor.”
That extraordinary total ranks Tuckett second all-time for single-game scoring in Pioneer history and ties him for first in free throws made percentage in a game.
He’s Lehi’s all-time leader in points-per-game average with 24.5 for that senior season and is tied for third in single-game assists with nine.
He ranks fourth all-time in season points total with 490 and is seventh in assists average with a 3.6 earned during his junior year. He went on to play at Snow College and eventually ended up at BYU-Hawaii with Coach Wagner once again.
Barnes remembers that Lehi had a hard time winning games until Wagner took over as coach. Two years behind Tuckett in school, Barnes said, “Mark was one of our big players and I really looked up to him. He taught me a lot. He was a great player and a clutch player.”
Tuckett was presented with a Lehi Legacy statuette as part of the ceremony. He said he was shocked when he learned of the award, but he was very honored.
“I thought my trophy days were over, but this is awesome,” he said. “These two wonderful people have lifted me up and this has meant a lot to me.”