Tom "Tucker" Burke
Class of 1970
Tom “Tucker” Burke ’70 was a gifted Green Wave basketball standout who found time during his years at NMHS to demonstrate excellent athletic skills on the gridiron and the baseball diamond.
Tucker played safety and occasional halfback for the still fledgling Green Wave football team as a sophomore in the fall of 1967. Then as a junior, Tucker stepped in for an injured teammate at mid-season to handle quarterback duties, all the while fulfilling his defensive responsibilities.
Among his highlights were an interception runback to key an 18-12 win over Bethel and an 82-yard kickoff return for touchdown and 11 of 19 passing for 140 yards in his QB debut.
Tucker also lofted a 40-yard TD pass to brother Joe Burke while completing 7 of 16 throws for 163 yards during a 22-6 loss to Newtown, and led 79- and 63-yard touchdown drives thanks to 108 yards passing during a 20-13 loss to Housatonic. In all, he connected on 24 of 51 passes for 411 yards in his short tenure as quarterback.
On the hardcourt, Tucker created magic with his passing, sleight-of-hand defense and especially his remarkable shooting ability. He offered a portend of things to come as a sophomore, stealing the ball and scoring the go-ahead basket in a 64-62 win over Immaculate and then burning Joel Barlow for 22 points to spark an 86-66 Green Wave victory.
Tucker elevated his game during his junior and senior seasons such that he became the best high school act around, displaying a wide repertoire of moves and shots from pretty much anywhere on the court. Each Green Wave opponent knew it had its work cut out to at least attempt to slow his scoring production. Making their job that much more of a challenge was the reality that Tucker was a superior passer who often found open teammates for baskets.
En route to registering a then school-record 948 points, he victimized six opponents for 30 points or more while averaging 18.1 as a junior and 22.1 as a senior. His efforts as perhaps the school’s best-ever offensive talent helped the Green Wave post a 35-25 record over three seasons, a dramatic upgrade from years immediately prior to Tucker’s varsity debut.
Among his senior explosions, all the while facing double teams and defenses rigged to limit his mercurial talents, were 33 points to spark a 70-66 win over Masuk and 31 points during a memorable, homecourt shootout loss to Kolbe, whose NBA-bound Walter Luckett scored 47 points, the most ever by a Green Wave rival.
Tucker’s NMHS baseball career was limited to his sophomore season, when he played second base and leftfield for the Green Wave and proved to be a contributor on both offense and defense, several times offering multi-hit games while batting second in the lineup.
Following his memorable high school career, Tucker dipped his toe into college sports as a member of the 1970-71 UConn men’s basketball junior varsity squad. His coach for that season was a fellow named Jim Valvano, later to create legend as coach of the NCAA champion North Carolina State Wolfpack in 1983.