Renaissance Woman

By on October 6, 2008

By Catherine Laroche

It’s not too often students get to experience an athlete show off their skills in two varsity sports.
University of Louisville freshman Gwen Rucker, however, is a dual-sport athlete as a middle hitter for the volleyball team and  a forward for the women’s basketball team.
“I haven’t experienced playing both sports [at the collegiate level] yet, since I’ve only played one (volleyball), but I know it will be hard,” Rucker said. “I like it because you get to go from one sport to the other. I get bored really easily, so when I get done with one sport I can transition into the other sport.”
Rucker has quite an impressive resume coming straight out of Lexington’s Henry Clay High School. In volleyball, she was named first team All-State in 2007 and made all-city, all-region and all-district team all four years.
On the basketball side, the 6-1 Cardinal is ranked No. 84 nationally among the 2008 recruiting class. Rucker played on the Kentucky Junior All-Stars team and earned all-city, all-district and all –region honors her sophomore and junior seasons. She was an all-state selection for both basketball and volleyball.
Rucker has been playing basketball since she was in the seventh grade. However, if it wasn’t for her high school basketball coach, there’s a great possibility that Rucker may have never picked up volleyball. She said her coach forced her to try-out for volleyball to give her something to do during the basketball offseason.
Rucker also ran track, but it didn’t take long until she realized that volleyball and basketball were her passions.
“Track was like running with no purpose [for me],” Rucker said. “Volleyball and basketball don’t go hand in hand, but there are things you can transfer from one sport to the other.”
U of L had competition when recruiting the dual-sport athlete. Rucker was committed to Kentucky and also considering Memphis, Middle Tennessee State and Kansas before signing with the Cards. She said the coaches, atmosphere, campus and teams were enough reasons to become a Cardinal.
“It’s just one of those things where you know you want to come here after visiting,” Rucker said. “I could also play both sports here, so I really liked that part.”
Already half-way through the volleyball regular season, Rucker said playing at the collegiate level has been hard.
“How much time is invested in it, how much work you have to do to play and stay playing and keeping yourself mentally focused in the game is a lot different,” she said. “But I enjoy it a lot.”
Although things have been hard for Rucker so far, she knows she always has someone to go to, whether it’s a teammate from the volleyball team or the basketball team.
“I have two families. I have my volleyball family who are totally different from my basketball family,” Rucker said. “You have people who you can talk to about everything and people you can just joke with. I’ve made a lot of friends [through playing both sports].”
Rucker said she will focus solely on volleyball until the season ends in December, and then will jump right into basketball mode. She said she’s still trying to master balancing both sports on top of school and a social life.
“I think I’m just going to take it one day at a time or one week at a time and just not look too far into the future,” Rucker said. “Whatever happens happens. I’m just going to keep myself focused on the goals.”

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