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November 8, 2012 - Michael Bleach
And we're back!
After a summer of Twilight ball and a fall of Calumet/Houghton/Lake Linden-Hubbell eviscerating all comers in volleyball, college hoops has finally started back up, and with it your favorite Michigan Tech basketball blog The View From the Bleachers.
As I get a full season with the Huskies this time around — I didn't start at the Gazette until January last year — you know this blog will take you places you have never been before.
Practice reports, injury updates, strategy breakdowns, gauging Kevin Luke's mood (wildly swinging depending on Ali Haidar's turnovers), game by game commentary and occasional in-depth statistical analysis are all part of the platform here. Plus, the stuff you really want to read, such as does Haidar like to eat chocolate-covered pretzel rods after games (yes), is Alex Culy attempting to grow a goatee (not confirmed) and is it working (most certainly)?
And if you are lucky, awkward video reports with players and a reporter not comfortable in front of camera!
Oh, the blog magic we will cast.
Tech kicked off their season in public with a 117-53 exhibition demolition of Division III Finlandia Wednesday night.
Despite the meaningless score (the volleyball scoreboard being used couldn't even handle triple digits, thus reading 17-53 at the end), there actually were some important trends to note from the game.
In no particular order...
-- For the first time — maybe ever in Luke's history — the Huskies willfully and purposefully pushed the tempo. It was mildly shocking.
All the numbers must be taken with Finland sized-grains of salt, so we won't even discuss the final shooting stats here, but for most of the first half Tech would grab a defensive rebound and in two passes up the floor were sending forwards Phil Rombach or Ali Haidar in for layups. It was super-effective and logical.
With Tech relying on an almost exclusively three guard lineup, and possessing three mobile big men in Haidar, Rombach and freshman Luke Heller, taking advantage of transition opportunities should be the next step for an offense that was deadly in the half court last year. So watching the team score at will Wednesday should be a good sign.
I'll believe it when I see it against a real opponent.
Luke is not renowned for his patience, and the second the Huskies turn it over twice in a row it is not hard to envision him scrapping the faster approach and never looking back. Speeding up the tempo inherently calls for less control, and let's just say its hard to see Luke comfortably sitting through the ebbs and flows of a quicker, sloppier game.
-- Freshman Luke Heller will be the only new recruit to see the court this year, with James Wezensky, Nicholas Stoll and Mike Fisher all taking a redshirt year.
This is because Heller is the real deal.
As I already discussed here, Heller is physically ready to play college ball right now and fits a need for the Huskies who are short on big man depth.
But Heller is not just playing because he is an able big body. Allow me to lean on a favorite sports writer crutch and draw a comparison with Wisconsin Badgers forward Ben Bruesewitz, circa 2010 (his sophomore year).
Heller can shoot from all spots, pass from the high or low post, doesn't need the ball often, tries on defense (if not all that successfully yet) and most importantly, possesses offensive rebounding instincts that will help with a barrage of jump shooters around him. The only thing he is missing is the floppy, ginger afro Bruesewitz rocked. Yes, he is not perfect.
His current skill set fits in seamlessly with the role the Huskies need filled. He can shoot if his man doubles down on Haidar, he can work the high-low post game that Mike Hojnacki and Haidar played so well last year and gives the energy bursts off the bench a team needs to sustain it through a long season.
Obviously he is a freshman and growing pains and yada yada — all the usual caveats. But I would be very surprised if Heller did not end up playing a big role this season as the Huskies look to improve on their GLIAC North Division title from last year.
That is all for right now, but with the women's team playing their first game of the year Saturday (hosting Concordia-St. Paul) come back daily as the blog should be in full swing once again. Any comments, questions, etc..., hit me up on twitter @michaelbleach or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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