Inside scoop on Elbert County basketball player and his backboard-shattering dunk

It has been around a week since it happened, but Rod Rucker is still the buzz of state’s basketball world after shattering a backboard.

The 6-foot-5 Rucker became an instant YouTube sensation after dunking with such force in last weekend’s region tournament at The Inferno, where Elbert County High School plays its home games.

“Oh yes, our kids know all about it,” Columbia High coach Phil McCrary said. “That’s just so rare, to shatter a backboard. When something like that happens, word spreads quickly in the basketball community. Everybody knows about Rod Rucker.”

Rucker is more than a dunker, but it took his backboard-breaking maneuver to earn widespread acclaim outside of the tiny North Georgia town. He averages 24 points and 17 rebounds, making starts at every position on the court.

“He’s one of the best players in the country,” Elbert County coach Larry Brown said. “I’m not saying that just because I’m his coach. I’ve played some big-time basketball myself, and Rod can play with anybody.”

Elbert County backboard-breaker Rod Rucker (left) and his coach, former UGA two-sport standout Larry Brown (ECCHS)

Elbert County backboard-breaker Rod Rucker (left) and his coach, former UGA two-sport standout Larry Brown (ECCHS)

Brown is a former two-sport athlete at UGA, and played for three years in the NFL. While at Georgia, Brown was on the school’s basketball team with Shandon Anderson and Jumaine Jones — who both played in the NBA.

“Rucker reminds me a lot of Jones (first-round pick of the Hawks in the 1999 draft),” Brown said. “Rod has great jumping ability, can shoot the 3-pointer, and just goes nonstop. He’s a little stronger than Jumaine, and a little bit better of a ball-handler.”

Rucker has been the team’s best player since he stepped on the court for Elbert, leading the team in scoring as a freshman. However, halfway through his first season, he was dismissed because of academics. It was such a big blow to Rucker that he stopped caring about school during second semester.

“I didn’t have my head on straight,” Rucker said. “I didn’t handle it well.”

Later that spring, Brown left the Atlanta suburbs to take the job as Elbert’s new coach. He had heard all about the tall and lanky kid with the gift of basketball. Brown made sure Rucker enrolled in summer school, driving him to class on some days.

Under Brown, Elbert (25-2) will make its third straight appearance in the state playoffs this weekend. Last year as a junior, Rucker led the state in rebounding with 17 per game. This year, he scored 38 points against Cedar Shoals, including five 3-pointers.

“I don’t need to see Rod Rucker, keep that kid away,” joked McCrary, whose team eliminated Elbert in last year’s playoffs.

“That kid is an ACC/SEC type player. I don’t who is recruiting him, but if I was coaching in the ACC or SEC, he’d be my No. 1 target. He’s so active running the floor, he can handle the ball, and is a rebounding machine.

“Not only can he shoot from long range, but he’s also incorporated a mid-range jumper in his game — which is a lost art in basketball. He’s a very special player.”

Rucker has made tremendous progress in school, but his rough freshman year will likely require him to go to prep school or junior college next year. Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia State, and Minnesota are among the schools scouting Rucker.

Brown has been a role model for Rucker, and can relate to his early academic woes. Brown flunked a couple of classes during his freshman year at Georgia and was held out of basketball. However, he turned it around and has mentored Rucker about his own experiences.

“I don’t know where I’d be in life without Coach Brown,” Rucker said. “He’s a great man.”

Since the famous dunk, Rucker has added to his celebrity status around Elberton. “Yeah, everyone wants to talk about it,” he said. “People are always asking’ How did it feel?’ It felt great.”

There was 7:19 left in the second quarter against Mountain View when Rucker stole the ball at halfcourt and sprinted toward the basket. “I peaked behind me, and the defender was running hard at me,” Rucker said. “I thought the dude was going to (undercut) me, so that’s why I went so fast and hard to dunk.”
Rucker fell toward the floor with the rim in his hand, and then the glass went flying. The other Elbert players celebrated wildly, while Rucker — who was scared at first — cracked a smile. After an hour delay, the game was moved to Elbert County Middle School.

“It one of those things in sports that you don’t believe until you see it,” Brown said. “It’s one of the rarest of (accomplishments). Even when I watch on film now, I ask myself ‘Did that really happen?’”

25 comments Add your comment

meka-pooh

February 25th, 2010
9:20 am

i couldn.t believe it but he MY COUSiN did it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
-i LOVE YHU RODDDDDDD=}

Smurf Dogg

February 25th, 2010
12:13 pm

Even though I’ve from rival Hart, Rod deserves all of his accolades. He’s not conceited. Coach Brown has provided swagger to EC, since his arrival. He coaches a “confrontational” style, but have heard of his discipline. Hope the boys do well in state, but Hart will continue to rule the gridiron.

bank walker

February 25th, 2010
12:49 pm

As an Elbert County grad, it is nice to see Elbert moving back toward the top in something. I wish this kid luck and hope Mark Fox takes notice!

A FAN

February 25th, 2010
12:59 pm

It is SOOO good coach James Martin of Cedar Grove is GONE,we will have some very good talent returning. PLEASE GET A COACH WITH RECPECT AND CHARACTER!!

Decory Bryant

February 25th, 2010
1:07 pm

Enter your comments here

Delbert D.

February 25th, 2010
10:11 pm

Never was a problem when high school centers were 6′4″ and backboards were tongue&groove pine.

Class of 83 Cade

February 25th, 2010
11:55 pm

I was there when Rod brought the goal down and shattered the backboard I could not believe what had just happen everybody I call thought I was playing.It could not have happen to better kid I am very proud of Rod on and off the court I have known him all his life and he have always been a respectful kid very glad to see him accomplish all of his goals Elbert County is behind you 100% you and Coach Brown have brought new life into this program it left in 1983.My nephew don’t think anyone else should wear #42 ever again in EC you have a lots of kids wants to be just like you my granddaughter is one of them.Keep God first and you will make it see you at the next level .Coach Brown keep guiding our kids they look up to you because you care and respect them we are glad that God sent you to us.

Mike Russell

February 26th, 2010
6:16 am

A real good friend of mine that is also a former coach at Elberton County, Derrick Mason, told me about Rod many years ago. He called him a “project”. When I seen him play as a sophmore it took about 5 minutes to realize this kid has the passion.

I salute Coach Brown/Coach Derrick Mason, The whole Elberton Team, and #42. Good luck in playoffs. We all pulling for a state championship!

Other Georgia

February 26th, 2010
7:23 am

Michael, thank you for sharing with the State such a great story.

Come on up to Elberton and take in the game at our wonderul OLD landmark – THE INFERNO!

monique carter

February 26th, 2010
10:47 am

congr. to my baby borother and coach brown!!!!!!!!! just want to say rod u have came along ways and i want to thank the LORD for giving you the strength to make it this far and more to come!!!! i want to give a special thanks to derrick mason for leading him in the right path and for making a believer out of him!! a special thanks to brown for the encouragement and everything else! GOD has sent some very special people to enter rod’s life and help him and im sure this is not the end!!!!!! I LOVE MY BROTHER WITH ALL MY HEART#42!!! GOD BLESS HIM AND MANY OTHERS

james

February 27th, 2010
3:38 am

Groves High, a 5-A team in Savannah is destroying everybody. Their average height is 6′5″ and they have two starters that is 6′9″. The starting guards could be on the USA Olympic relay team because they are that fast. The team averages 31 fast breaks a game wth thundering dunks. If you can’t stop their fast break you can’t beat them. Ask MLK. The were stumped on last night.

MARVIN DYE

February 27th, 2010
4:03 am

Great kid been around him all his life, great attitude on and off the court and has a great family that will always support him.

snakebite

February 27th, 2010
10:03 am

Rod just takes my breath away every time i watch him play. The passion he has for the game elevates him to another level, he puts you in the mind of Kobe and Jordan. Those are two players that had a drive for the game that distant them from their oppoents. Rod i know you will do well in whatever you decide on, just stay postive and belive that you can accomplish all things through Christ of strengths you.

Mase

February 27th, 2010
10:14 am

I had an opportunity to watch the Blue Devils play last night. Elbert played hard smart and together. I really enjoyed watching the game. As for T-Rex….wow…so much energy so much passion and drive..way to play. I believe he had 27pts 14rebs and several assist. It also included 5 high flying dunks. I’m just glad he started dunking with 2 hands because the 1 hander was getting old lol.. Keep grinding..the mission is almost complete.

Eagle 1

February 27th, 2010
1:07 pm

Hey Rod you have to see Columbia in a few days????
Im just saying!!!!

SLM

February 27th, 2010
1:11 pm

Way to ROD RUCKER….u r truly AMAZING. Your level in BASKETBALL have went to another level. Congratulation to Coach Brown and the coaching staff for such awsome job yall are doing with the E.C. b-ball team. Also to the team, keep doing what yall do best….WINNING!!!!!

1

March 2nd, 2010
4:15 pm

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

A SUPPORTING FAN OF CEDAR GROVE

March 3rd, 2010
4:39 pm

WE WILL BE SO GLAD WHEN YOU TAKE JOHNNY McCRARY TO HIS RIGHT SCHOOL. COACH MARTIN IS A GREAT COACH FOR CEDAR GROVE. COACH MARTIN WILL DO ANYTHING FOR HIS STUDENTS AND HIS BASKETBALL TEAM AT CEDAR GROVE. AS FOR YOU JOHNNY DADDY TAKE HIM SOMEWHERE ELSE AND PLAY BECAUSE WE DONT NEED HIM TO WIN.

Eagle 1

March 3rd, 2010
11:30 pm

Count down to A–Whoopin time Elbert Co.!!!
Now you gotta play a real team!!! COLUMBIA

A FAN

March 31st, 2010
7:33 am

We will b so Glad when “A supporting Fan of Cedar Grove closses his mouth.” U must be Jelous of the FRESHMAN, u never achieved anything in ur life, or ur child doesnt amount 2 anything. The #1 Freshman in the state in 2 sports, HANDS DOWN!!!!

sanquisha allen

May 20th, 2010
1:09 pm

this is quisha allen i was in school in VA and i was googlin and ran across you i was like damn rod rucker SOMEBODY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! lol but anyway im proud of you do yo thang young i wish you the best of luck in all that you inspire for. dont let nonthing or noone tell you you cant put your priorities 1st anything worth wanting is worth hustling for, because anything is possible through god!!!! love ya quake!!!!!

Sergeo Harper

August 11th, 2010
8:18 am

.even tho I’m a part of the Blue Devils team and was playing with Rod at the time, it was still very shocking. Him and Tray Heard use to always talk about bringing the rim in a game before they left our school. Out of the years me knowing rod playing on his team my first ball game in rec. i always knew that he had a thing for basketball. He works very hard at practice and it shows he practice hard when he step on the court. hearing the cheerleaders shout DEVILS is mos def a time to remember. Even tho i have one more year there, playing ball without them is going to be very hard. I looked up to Rod and Tray Heard.
-Sergeo Harper #21

Torrance Holland

May 16th, 2011
10:54 am

Wassup bra when i seen that i was like my bra going to the nba asap

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November 27th, 2011
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