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Braxton Tucker’s health is the key to Portland State’s success

The Vikings will need him healthy if they are to contend in the Big Sky.

Portland State Basketball (@ViksMBB) on Twitter

The next few years for Portland State basketball will be about rejuvenation. The Vikings have a new head coach in Barret Peery, who replaces the fired Tyler Geving. They’re a team that is giving the Stott Center, their home court, a multimillion-dollar facelift that shouldn’t be completed until 2018.

And, most importantly, they’re a team finally seeing the return of Braxton Tucker, a man who has been sidelined far too often because of injuries.

The Big Sky title race next season seems to be wide open, with some thinking that the Idaho Vandals are the favorites (if anyone at all). But don’t count out the Vikings.

One reason for optimism lies in their returning starters. Another is Tucker.

What was a promising career for the Vikings has been marred by injury after injury, sidelining a player with prodigious potential. He appeared in just five games in 2016-17 before an arthroscopy on his left knee cut his season short. He also sat out the prior season with a knee injury.

To make things all the more tantalizing for Vikings fans, Portland State got a glimpse of what Tucker was capable of in those five games last season. Tucker averaged nearly 15 points per game to go with roughly five rebounds. All signs pointed to a successful season ahead for the junior forward.

Ultimately, the Vikings finished the year with a record hovering ever-so-close to .500 and a Big Sky record that was anything but. Still, there are promising signs for next season.

For one, three starters who all averaged over 10 points per game will return to the City of Roses. Bryce Canda and Deontae North will both serve as familiar faces in the back court as Traylin Farris should continue to provide an excellent post presence.

And, of course, they’ll have Tucker providing support.

Sure, the loss of De’Sean Parsons, the team’s leading scorer from last season, will hurt. However, Vikings fans and staff alike must remain faithful that Tucker will pick up where Parsons left off.

Their hopes at breaking through the pack in what looks to be a wide open year in the Big Sky rest firmly in Tucker’s hands. If he can remain healthy, the sky’s the limit for this squad.

If you still aren’t convinced, you should take a look at his highlights from 2014, the only full season he has been able to play with Portland State. That year, he averaged 11.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

Elsewhere around the league, Jacob Wiley is gone. Jeremy Senglin is gone. Quinton Hooker is gone. When considering the guys who will don the black and green once again and the long-awaited re-addition of Tucker, it’s hard to bet against the Vikings.

Portland State is program is undergoing a major rebirth of both its image and style. Tucker’s career as a Viking is undergoing a similar process. Not only would ending his time in Portland with a Big Sky title and perhaps greater success go hand-in-hand with what the team is trying to accomplish on a larger scale, but it would also serve as a beautiful ending to a career that has taken too many unfortunate turns.