Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wednesday Where Are They Now?: Luke Recker

Ever wonder what happened to those college stars that couldn't catch on in the NBA? The guys that put up the great numbers or the guys that left early, and were never heard from again? Every Wednesday, we at BIAH will take a look at a former college star that never made it in the NBA, and we will update you on where he is playing or what he is doing. We're guessing the results will surprise you. To request a player, leave a comment in the comments section.

Luke Recker, Indiana/Arizona/Iowa

Luke Recker was living the dream. As a McDonald's and Parade all-american and Indiana's Mr. Basketball in 1997, Recker had decided to stay home and attend Indiana to play for coach Bobby Knight. As a freshman in 1997-98, he ended up being second on the team in minutes while averaging 12.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, and 2.9 apg and also leading the team in steals with 48. Recker was named honorable mention All-Big 10. He was even better as a sophomore, when he increased his scoring output to 16.1 ppg, which was enough to get a nod as 3rd team All-Big 10.

But that's when the dream turned into a nightmare for Recker. As a schoolboy legend, he was expected to follow in the footsteps of guys like Steve Alford and Damon Bailey, leading the Hoosiers for four years. But Coach Knight's style of play was not conducive to the way Recker played. Recker was a shooter that liked to get out and run the floor and make plays (for example, his biggest knock had always been his man to man defense, but he still managed to average more than 1.5 spg for his career). Bobby Knight's Hoosier teams played at a slower, more deliberate pace, which Recker felt hindered his ability to showcase his talents for the NBA. So Recker decided to transfer to Arizona to play under Lute Olsen. The decision to transfer was not an easy one for Recker, as he became public enemy #1 in Indiana basketball circles, although to this day he still maintains he decision to leave IU had nothing to do with Knight's aggressive demeanor and everything to do with basketball.

But just weeks before he was to go to Arizona, Recker was in Colorado with his high school sweetheart, Kelly Craig, and her family. One night, on the way home from a carnival, the car Recker and Craig were riding in was struck head on by a drunk driver in a pick-up (he also side-swiped the pick-up in front of them, which was carrying 11 people, 9 in the bed of the truck). All told, 14 people were seriously injured and 1 died. Recker almost lost his left ear, sliced his temporal artery, had a gash running from his ear and along his jaw down to his neck, and he crushed his left wrist and thumb. He needed more than 200 stitches to close him up, and would probably have ended up bleeding out had a nurse not happened to drive by minutes after the accident.

Craig broke her neck and severely bruised her spinal cord, leaving her paralyzed. She was able to gain some mobility back in her shoulders, left arm and wrist, and some feeling in her legs, but she will be in a wheelchair the rest of her life. Craig's brother was left in a coma with permanent brain damage. Recker never played a game for Arizona, as he decided to transfer closer to his family and the Craigs, instead attending the University of Iowa where he would play for former Hoosier Steve Alford (it is rumored, mostly among IU fans, that Recker left because he would have been stuck behind Gilbert Arenas and Richard Jefferson, two pretty decent players). Recker was able to get a waiver from the NCAA which allowed him to be eligible at the beginning of the 2000-01 season. This caused Recker to be even more despised in the state of Indiana, and during the only game he actually played in Bloomington, he was taunted the entire game, scoring only eight points in a 79-51 blow-out loss. One sign a fan held up said Indiana's Most Wanted, with a picture of Recker next to a picture of Osama Bin Laden.

Recker had a great year as a junior, averaging 18.1 ppg while hitting almost three 3's per, but was only able to suit up for 18 games because of a fractured knee-cap. He came back in 2001-2002, and led the Hawkeyes with 17.1 ppg while earning third team All-Big 10 honors. During the Big 10 tournament his senior year, Recker hit two consecutive game winners, the second of which came against Indiana.

Recker, who was a better than average athlete before the accident and the knee injury, never was really able to gain that athleticism back, and thus went undrafted after graduating. He played 34 games for Asheville in the NBDL in 2002-03, averaging just 8.9 ppg off the bench, before he decided to head over to Europe. He signed with Benetton Treviso in April of 2003 (for those of you that read WWATN, this should sound familiar) but he was released before ever playing a game. He then signed with Roseto in Italy in August, where he averaged 17.2 ppg. In 2004-05 he played with Girona in Spain, where he averaged 15.2 ppg, but only played in 19 games before being released. He spent the 2005-06 season with Livorno in Italy, averaging 14.5 ppg. Finally, in 2006, he landed somewhere for more than a year as he signed with Bilbao Basket in Spain, where he averaged 14.5 ppg in 2006-07 and 11.2 ppg in 2007-08. He will play for them again in 2008-09 alongside former NBA draft picks Fran Vazquez and Frederic Weis (yes, that Frederic Weis), and former Minnesota Golden Gopher Quincy Lewis.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

After Kelley Craig became paralyzed, Recker dumped her because, as he told his mother, "I don't think I can be a husband to her." It's always been about Luke...

Anonymous said...

Kelly wasn't his high school sweetheart. I'm pretty sure they met at IU.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't be a husband to her....

Anonymous said...

The separation between Kelly and Luke was mutual and they are both happy and doing well...Luke has been married for awhile now and I believe Kelly just recently got married. The whole accident that occurred was terrible, but just because Luke decided to leave IU and this incident happened doesn't make him a bad guy...people just need to move on and look to the future rather than the past.

K. Scott said...

Recker met Kelly Craig just after his junior year of high school.