When basketball teams set a goal of making a big playoff run, they always make set a supporting objective — to win with guard play.
The Justin Northwest boys basketball team has those goals. The Texans aspire to go beyond in 2016-2017 what they did in 2015-2016, when they advanced to the Class 6A Region I quarterfinals.
A sure-handed point guard can make a difference. Head coach Mike Hatch believes he has one in senior Tucker Dunn (5-10). Not needing to be a leading scorer but required to run the offense, Dunn has the Texans (17-4, 3-0 District 6-5A) in the early lead of the district race. Northwest is feeding off momentum from knocking off district rival and highly ranked Saginaw Chisholm Trail, 65-52, on the road Jan. 6. Northwest was possibly headed to the Class 5A state rankings this week.
The role is a big change for Dunn, who was the leading scorer for his sub-varsity teams.
He’s just so scrappy and tough. What makes him valuable is that when he makes a mistake, he will bounce back.
- Northwest coach Mike Hatch on point guard Tucker Dunn
“It’s different for me, because I always feel like I haven’t contributed enough,” he said. “But I have to keep in mind that I do it in different ways. I’m on the floor and communicating. With the other great scorers we have, I can just get other people involved.”
The Texans are a prolific scoring team, averaging 65 points and shooting 47 percent for the season. Led by sophomore guard Avery Anderson (19.8 PPG), there are three other solid scorers in freshman guard Julien Smith (11.3), senior guard Jordan Keys (9.0) and junior post Darrell Simpson (8.5).
Dunn is doing his part, averaging 3.6 assists and carrying a 2-to-1 assists-to-turnovers ratio. That’s what point guards should do.
“I don’t know if he’s the best point guard we’ve ever had, but he is the one who gets the most out of his ability,” Hatch said. “He’s just so scrappy and tough. What makes him valuable is that when he makes a mistake, he will bounce back. You have to do that as a point guard.”
Dunn bounced between the junior varsity and varsity in 2015-2016. There just weren’t enough minutes for him to stay with the varsity. Hatch needed Dunn to gain experience on the floor.
As he evaluated his 2016-2017 point guard choices, Hatch locked on to Dunn. When adversity strikes a team, Dunn demonstrates to others that they must calm nerves and maintain composure. Dunn has been willing to sacrifice it all. Through Northwest’s first 21 games, he’s taken 22 offensive fouls. Hatch doesn’t believe he’s had 22 charges taken in the nine seasons he’s coached there.
“Whatever it takes to win is all I care about,” Dunn said. “I’m just going to get back up and keep playing. If you think about, that play is a huge momentum play.”
Chemistry is developing as Dunn knows where the sweet spots are on the floor. He recognizes where to feed Anderson, Smith and Keys. With the left-handed Simpson, Dunn understands he’s going to set him up on the left side of the block so the 6-8 enforcer can drive to the basket.
However, Dunn isn’t perfect. There have been times when he and Hatch have had differences of opinion on the game. But Dunn usually explains his rationale for a play that either failed or succeeded. It reveals his competitiveness.
“It’s been a work in progress for him and he’s learning the game,” Hatch said. “But he has unique quality that you can’t put your finger on. He’s just going to do what it takes to win a ballgame.”