April 14, 2011
The fanfare since Illinois College senior Jacob Tucker won the Denny's College Slam Dunk Championship during the Final Four weekend has been overwhelming, but it reached a new height this week when Tucker was invited to Washington, D.C., as a guest of U.S. Congressman Aaron Schock (R-Ill.).
Tucker, an unassuming 5-foot-10 high flyer, earned the invite after stunning the country with a series of spectacular dunks that earned him the title of college basketball's best dunker against some of the most prominent names in the collegiate game.
"It takes a lot of courage just to participate in a competition like the slam dunk contest and for him not only to do well, but to win the whole thing is an exciting and inspirational story," Schock said in a press release. "It's a great example of someone growing up in a small town going on to do great things."
Politics are nothing new for Tucker, who started a grassroots YouTube campaign to get into the slam dunk competition in the first place. He put together slam dunk video that went viral and after the story was picked up by several media outlets, fans voted Tucker into the contest.
But few thought he could win.
He was by far the smallest player in the competition and even Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen, who measures 6-1, said he thought Tucker was there for the 3-point contest and not the slam dunking. But after Tucker tossed the ball to himself, put it between his legs mid-air and slammed it home on his first dunk, everyone quickly became believers.
When Tucker got home from the slam dunk contest, he was honored during a parade and reception at Illinois College's Sherman Gymnasium. Mayor Andy Ezard declared April 4 "Jacob Tucker Day in Jacksonville" and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn declared "Jacob Tucker Day in Illinois." Tucker even went to a Chicago Bulls basketball game with Quinn.
But the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., and showcase his talents against some congressmen seemed to be the highlight for Tucker.
"I'm excited to visit Washington, D.C., for the first time," Tucker told the Belleville News Democrat. "I'm looking forward to meeting Congressman Schock and possibly getting a chance to spend time with him and some other congressmen on the basketball court."