Michigan Tech men hope to take next step

Michigan Tech’s Kyle Monroe is the team’s leading returning scorer after averaging 20.1 points per game last season. (David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — Offensively, the Michigan Tech Huskies have the potential to match up with anyone in the GLIAC.

Four starters return, led by junior forward Kyle Monroe (20.1 points per game) and sophomore point guard Tommy Lucca (15.1). Monroe will be a frontrunner for the GLIAC Player of the Year, while Lucca looks to build off a freshman season that saw him named the GLIAC Freshman of the Year. 

Add in the wealth of experience and the freshmen who will have the chance to contribute right away, and you have a team with the potential to light up the scoreboard this season. 

But Tech’s success in 2017-18 will be dictated on the other end of the floor.

“We’ve spent more time on defense (this preseason),” Tech coach Kevin Luke said. “I think Kyle and Bryan (Heath) have to be stronger defensively, and I think they’re doing that. I think we’re going to be a better defensive club. 

“Our offense is going to be OK, but I don’t think we’re where we need to be offensively. But we’re better than where we were defensively this time last year.”

Tech was selected third in the GLIAC North Preseason poll and will open the season this weekend by hosting the GLIAC/GLVC Challenge at the Wood Gym. The Huskies play UW-Parkside tonight at 6 p.m. before taking on Lewis at 4 p.m. on Sunday. 

It will be the Tech debut of freshmen Dawson Bilski and Trent Bell, both players the U.P. is already familiar with. Bilski was a key figure in North Central’s three-year run as Class D state champions. In his senior season, he averaged 19.7 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2.8 steals per game while shooting 49 percent from 3. Bell hails from Negaunee and averaged 19.6 points and 10.7 rebounds per game in his senior season for the Miners.

“In the preseason, I like Dawson and Trent a lot right now,” Luke said. “They’re going to give us some good minutes.”

Elisha Coleman, TeeAaron Powell and Kyle Clow are the other incoming freshmen. Tech also added KC Borseth to the roster after Borseth spent last season as a student assistant.

“It wasn’t a hard decision,” Luke said of adding Borseth. “We discussed it as a staff and said he’s good enough to play. He’s been a great addition. He works his tail off and knows what’s going on. He’s a good team player who is also good in the locker room.”

In addition to Monroe and Lucca returning, Tech brings back Heath and senior forward A.J. Grazulis.

Heath has started all 56 games since he joined the program as a freshman and has averaged 13 points in each campaign while shooting 40 percent from 3 last season. 

Grazulis is Tech’s most experienced frontcourt returner after he started 30 games and averaged 7 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Tech will also look for more contributions in the post from the 6-foot-10 Ryan Schuller, who saw limited action as a freshman. 

“He’s a big body and has gotten a lot better,” Luke said of Schuller. “He’s got to be able to play in some of these games until our freshmen get up to speed. He has to get the game experience to feel more comfortable and have some success and build that confidence.”

Lucca appeared at ease in his freshman season while running Tech’s offense. In addition to his 15.7 points per game, he averaged 4.6 assists to 2.7 turnovers while also leading the team in steals (1.7). His growth from last season to this season could dictate how much success Tech enjoys. 

“He’s a very good point guard in this league,” Luke said, “but he still has to mature as far as his decision process goes. He’s got to let the offense work because he’s very dynamic in this offense by having some freedom to drive and penetrate. 

“As good as he is, with his decision process of getting people involved, our offense could be even better.”