Emporia State men’s basketball season has wrapped up, but under first-year head coach Craig Doty, they laid the foundation for the future. It takes a whole program to shift a culture like that, and it’s not an easy thing to do, but for student assistant coach Justin Tucek, trying to turn a program around is simple compared to what he’s been through.
From getting the guys hyped to picking up after them, Tucek does whatever the program needs. He’s a coach in training, but for now, he does a lot of the dirty work that keeps the wheels turning at ESU.
“He’s got this positive infectious smile and his energy is so great. We built a relationship with him,” Doty said
He’s loved basketball since he was a kid, even if he doesn’t have the typical hoopers body, he always had a passion
“Started when I was 7, 8 or 9 got those little nerf hoops at Walmart, me and my brother bought em, set em up in the basement. If they broke, we’d make wired hoops out of hangers, bend the wires tape it to the wall, mom and dad would get mad when they hear booming going on but that’s when it all started
But while he was developing a love for the game, he had much bigger things to worry about
“Went through a lot of adversity in my life, went through 5 open-heart surgeries, that’s a lot…scar tissue, it’s a blessing but a curse, I’m glad to be here and alive but you know it could be worse, i could be in a wheelchair, I could be battling cancer, but you see me on the street, you don’t think of anything and thank god for science and technology because it’s been a blessing,” Tucek said.
The first of those five surgeries started when he was born and the most recent came just as he started college, but that never deterred him from his goal of being a college basketball coach and his positive attitude never wavered.
“When I woke up, I winked at my parents and put my fist up because I knew I made it out of there,” Tucek smiled.
His coaching dream really started to take shape when he was a kid attending coach Doty’s basketball camps and blossomed with the help of social media.
Tucek liked a photo of Doty’s on Twitter and the coach replied to him asking if he had started coaching in South Dakota where he was going to college. Tucek said he was waiting until he graduated to begin that path.
“That’s not how it work’s Justin we gotta get you involved right now,” Doty told us.
And that’s exactly what happened. Doty put him on the path, got him a few assistant jobs, and when Doty got the call from ESU, he knew exactly who to bring along.
“Coach Doty gets the job at Emporia state, I txt him at 7 pm, say congratulations on getting the job.”
Tucek didn’t get a reply until the middle of the night, but when he did, it was all worth it.
“I wake up at 8 am, got a txt form Craig Doty at 2 am that said thanks JT. not it’s time to apply to ESU, I want you to come with. I jumped out of bed and almost through the roof,” Tucek joked.
He’s kept that same energy for the Hornets,
And uses what he’s gone through to inspire those around him.
“Staying positive….that’s all it takes.”