- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 16, 2016

STORRS, Conn. (AP) - UConn forward Morgan Tuck knows her reconstructed right knee has only a few more good years of basketball left in it.

Surgery cost the team’s “mama bear” all but eight games during her sophomore year and led the NCAA to give her an extra year of eligibility.

Before this season began, the 6-foot-2 redshirt junior said she would use that year next season. But now, after missing five games this season with knee pain, she must decide if she can afford to come back and essentially give up a season of professional basketball.

“I used to think I would be able to play until I was 35 or 36,” she said. “That’s not going to happen. So I definitely think about that and being able to achieve post-college basketball things that I’ve dreamt of.”

Tuck suffered a bone bruise in her knee as a freshman and doctors later discovered she was missing some cartilage. As a sophomore, she had surgery to move some existing cartilage into that empty space.

Tuck says doctors told her that basically means she has the knee of a middle-aged woman.

That hasn’t stopped her when she’s on the court. In the 19 games she played this season, Tuck is averaging 13.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists in just over 27 minutes.

She came in as part of the class with Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson. All three have a chance to win a fourth consecutive national title in April. Tuck is scheduled to graduate in May and is projected as a top five WNBA draft pick.

So why would she stay?

It’s possible Tuck could compete for a fifth national title in 2016-17, a record that likely would never be broken. She said that is a factor.

Getting a graduate degree while still on scholarship is another.

Tuck also says she’s happy at UConn, which is a big check mark in the “stay” column.

“I love being here,” she said. “I consider this home. I’ve been here for four years and it’s hard to leave, especially when you necessarily don’t have to.”

She also is interested in someday becoming a coach. Sitting out so many games has given her more insight into that part of the game and she’d love another year of tutelage under Geno Auriemma and his staff.

It’s something the other players notice. Freshman Katie Lou Samuelson said all the underclassmen go to Tuck when they need advice, whether about their game or something off the court.

“Morgan really has that motherly type thing going for her, where she’s really going to help you out,” Samuelson said.

Auriemma said he’s not telling Tuck what he thinks she should do. He’s instead advised her to enjoy this season and make a decision at the end of the year.

UConn will honor its seniors on Feb. 29. Tuck said she’s not sure whether she will have made up her mind by then. UConn’s sports information office sent an email Monday saying she would not address the subject until she announces her plans.

“This isn’t going to be one of those things where she’s going to flip a coin and go, ‘Heads I leave, tails I stay,” Auriemma said. “No, this is going to be pretty well thought out, taking everything into consideration.”

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This story has been corrected to show on first reference that freshman’s last name is spelled Samuelson, not Samuelsson.

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