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Paul Rucker felt the time was right.

With all three of his daughters out of high school, Rucker felt ready for the opportunity and challenges of taking on a head coaching job. 

After serving as an assistant basketball coach for years, Rucker was approved last week to be the head girls basketball coach at Davenport North, filling the role after Matt Hoeppner resigned in May to be the girls basketball coach at West Liberty.

"They have kids that are super good students, super good citizens, and a lot of them are really into basketball," Rucker said of the Wildcats. "I kind of thought it was my time to step into that role. ... I'm super excited."

Rucker brings plenty of experience and basketball knowledge to the Wildcats. He played college basketball at Cornell College and spent several years as an assistant with the North Scott girls basketball team. He was the freshman coach for the Lancers boys basketball team last year.

He had planned on becoming an assistant on the Central DeWitt girls basketball team and had actually participated in some of the summer workouts before the North job became a possibility.

"I sat down with my family, talked with coach (Chad) Specht in DeWitt and decided it was a great opportunity that I didn't want to let slip by," Rucker said. "I ended up interviewing and was blessed to get the job."

Rucker inherits a team that has plenty of talent, including guard Bella Sims, who was a first team all-Mississippi Athletic Conference selection last year as a sophomore.

The Wildcats graduated just one senior from a team that went 13-9 and finished fourth in the MAC last season.

"I think there's a lot of talent in there," Rucker said. "The biggest thing on any of the teams I've worked with is chemistry. How we all come together and buy into what we want to be as a collective group. If that buy-in is there and the chemistry is there, I think we have the pieces to be very talented."

Rucker plans on keeping the staff already in place — Randy Dodson, Marissa Heneghan and Katie Thompson — whom he credited with running summer practices and keeping the team together during the vacancy period.

"I was lucky, I got to at least have a couple practices with them and then be with them the last night of summer league," Rucker said. "I'm super blessed with my new staff. ... They did a great job this summer of keeping things moving when they were kind of in flux and didn't know exactly what was going to happen with a new coach coming in or who they were going to get. They kept the girls on track and had them in the gym a couple times a week."

Rucker envisions the Wildcats playing an up-tempo offense while also playing mainly man-to-man on defense. He also hopes to continue what former head coach Ron O'Brien started with North's youth leagues, building the Wildcats into a consistent program.

"I would give all the credit to Ron. He's kind of the heartbeat at North," Rucker said. "I'm hoping to keep him with us in some capacity. I know his son is playing on the boys side, but he has a lot of ties to the community and I would like to utilize those. I think he's a great basketball mind."

Rucker also serves as an assistant coach with North Scott's cross country and girls soccer teams, roles he still plans on keeping in addition to the head basketball job at North.

Possibly the biggest drawback from this new job is that it will be difficult for Rucker to watch his daughter Karli, now entering her junior season at Northern Iowa.

However, Rucker knows he can find ways to make sure he doesn't miss too many games.

"Last year, I drove crazy amounts of miles — by myself sometimes — to get to games ... to Carbondale down and back in a day, to Missouri State down and back, Valparaiso on a Sunday morning," he said. "We talked about it as a family, and I just love coaching. And I love watching Karli, but I think I can have a balance where I can do both and make the majority of Karli's games and still be able to fully function with what I do for North."

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