- Scott Powers, Reporter
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Almost a month after his online audition video went viral, Division III Illinois College guard Jacob Tucker earned an invitation to the college slam dunk championship at the Final Four in Houston.
Tucker received an official invitation to the dunk competition on Tuesday after winning a Facebook fan poll. Tucker received 88 percent of the vote over Lee University's Larriques Cunningham to be the lone non-Division I competitor in Thursday's competition at the University of Houston.
"It was a weight lifted off my shoulders," Tucker said of the invitation. "I was really excited. I was running around the room. Anytime there's a competition, you never know. They weren't showing the number of votes, so I didn't know what it was. To get 88 percent, that is crazy. That's unbelievable. I've gotten so much support."
The YouTube video of Tucker, a 5-foot-11 senior with an estimated 50-inch vertical, has gotten more than 2.6 million hits and turned him into a minor celebrity.
Tucker isn't content just being in the competition. His plan is to beat out Pittsburgh's Gilbert Brown, St. John's Justin Burrell, Memphis' Will Coleman, East Tennessee State's Justin Tubbs, San Diego State's Billy White, Cincinnati's Darnell Wilks and UNC-Asheville's John Williams for the crown.
"I feel with the dunks I have practiced and the dunks I have in my arsenal I have a chance," Tucker said.
What can viewers expect from the high-flying Web sensation?
"I'm not going to leak them out," Tucker said. "I will say there's a couple dunks you haven't seen me do before or some you've never seen before."
Tucker's video was put together over a few months following Illinois College's practices. Tucker said almost all of the dunks were completed in one or two takes. He jumps over teammates and dunks. He has a partner throw the ball off the side of the backboard and dunks it. Someone throws it off the back of the glass and he dunks it. He leaps, puts the ball around his waist and dunks. He throws down a windmill, a 360-degree windmill, a variety of reverse dunks. And for his finale, Tucker leaps, spins 360 degrees, puts the ball between his legs and crams it with his right hand.
"A lot of the dunks are dunks I've seen people try before or ask my friends to come up with ideas," said Tucker, who averaged 14.8 points at Illinois College. "The one off the side of the glass is one I saw Blake Griffin try in the dunk contest."
The slam dunk and three-point championships will be televised on ESPN2 at 9 p.m. ET on Thursday.
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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