Chicago’s rising star: Talen Horton-Tucker on Iowa State and his future teammates

Iowa State signee Talen Horton-Tucker pulls up for a jumper in a high school game.

Aaron Marner

This is the third part in a series about Iowa State’s 2018 men’s basketball recruiting class. In the first two parts, the Daily caught up with signees Tyrese Haliburton and Zion Griffin. Today, it’s time to take a look at Talen Horton-Tucker.

When Talen Horton-Tucker pledged his commitment to head coach Steve Prohm and Iowa State in late October, he was a bit of an unknown. Nobody really knew where he fit in the grand scheme of things.

At 6-foot-6 and over 200 pounds, Horton-Tucker has a Big 12 frame — even though he won’t turn 18 until the third week of the 2018-19 season. In fact, he was just 16 when he signed his National Letter of Intent back in November.

And sure, he had garnered some national attention. At the time of his commitment, Horton-Tucker was ranked No. 109 by 247Sports’ composite ranking. But national recruiting experts had widely varying opinions.

He was in the 160s as of early December by 247Sports. ESPN didn’t have him in their top 100 (as high as their rankings go) until this week, when he jumped to No. 76.

Rivals? They had him anywhere from the mid-50s to No. 31 nationally.

In the midst of all those varying opinions, Horton-Tucker has stayed focused on his final high school season. He attends Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, Illinois, which is nothing short of a prep basketball powerhouse.

Simeon has produced NBA players left and right. The list includes former Orlando Magic forward Nick Anderson, current Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker and — most notably — 2010-11 NBA Most Valuable Player, Derrick Rose.

Simeon plays a tough schedule, often traveling out of state for games to play nationally-ranked teams. Recently, they fell by two points to USA Today’s No. 1 ranked high school team.

Even R.J. Barrett, the nation’s No. 1 prospect and a Duke commit, had nothing but positive things to say about Horton-Tucker.

“He definitely made some tough shots,” Barrett told USA Today. “We just tried to keep him from getting to the basket. But there’s nothing you can do when he’s shooting the ball like that.”

For that reason, Horton-Tucker has been one of the most intriguing prospects in the class of 2018.

He’s young, but already built for Division I basketball. He’s held his own against the best teams, and best players, in his class. And he may be one of the best scorers in the nation.

“I feel like I bring versatility and scoring,” Horton-Tucker said. “I’m just looking forward to adding to a team that’s already pretty good and bringing them to the next level.”

Horton-Tucker, who said he plans to make a trip back to Ames sometime in February, took his official visit to Iowa State back in October during Iowa State’s Hilton Madness event.

At the time, Horton-Tucker reportedly held offers from Illinois, Xavier, Missouri, Kansas and Michigan State, among others. What made Iowa State stand out among that group?

“Just the relationships,” Horton-Tucker said. “It’s where I felt I was comfortable. [Iowa State] wasn’t in a rush. They probably missed one game all summer [during AAU].

“They just kept up a good relationship with me and they were showing interest.”

Horton-Tucker said Prohm and assistant coach Daniyal Robinson were the two coaches who he kept in contact with the most.

“Talen, along with any of the freshmen, their biggest thing is that they have to establish a certain work ethic,” Robinson said. “There’s a big jump from high school to college. The faster he can make that adjustment, his role may grow.”

Relationships with the coaching staff and with the other 2018 signees — the four signees have group chats together and keep up with each others’ seasons — have been key for the entire class.

That level of comfort with the rest of the class was instrumental in getting Horton-Tucker, who was the final commit between the four, to sign on the dotted line. After all, when he committed in late October, Horton-Tucker was the third player from Illinois to commit to Iowa State.

“It played a big part,” Horton-Tucker said.

He added that his mother, Shirley Horton, liked the fit as well. Horton-Tucker said she liked that he “could come in with people I was used to.”

Iowa State loses three seniors after this season but brings in four freshmen and two transfers.

“When you talk about positions, Talen doesn’t really have one,” Prohm said back in November, when Horton-Tucker signed. “He can play some one, he can play some two, he can play the three. You can play him a little bit of anywhere.

“I feel strongly about his ability and talent, his skill and versatility. He has a knack to really score. Talen is really long, plays both ends of the floor, but the biggest thing is he can put the ball in the hole.”

When Horton-Tucker arrives on campus, he’ll be fighting for playing time immediately. Thanks to his versatility, as Prohm said, he could play multiple positions.

That’s important for a team like Iowa State, which brings back two starting guards and gets a third — Virginia transfer Marial Shayok — eligible after sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules. Horton-Tucker can fit in with anyone on Iowa State’s roster.

“He’s a competitor,” Robinson said. “He’s a winner, so he’s gonna bring those attributes to us right away.”