GVSU junior anchors Laker basketball across the board

GVL / Emily Frye
Junior forward Piper Tucker on Nov. 19th.

GVL / Emily Frye Junior forward Piper Tucker on Nov. 19th.

Beau Troutman

When you look at a box score for Grand Valley State women’s hoops, it’s easy to seek out two names right away: Brionna Barnett, senior point guard, and Kayla Dawson, the team’s leading scorer. It’s only natural to look for the two most prominent players.

But if you keep that box score in your hand a little longer and do a little more digging, you’ll see a name that pops up in just about every category of the stat sheet: Piper Tucker.

Tucker, a junior center, has been a key contributor for the Lakers in 2015. She’s easily the Lakers’ most versatile player, as she leads the team in three different categories statistically, and is in the top three in five more categories.

“She’s very complete,” said GVSU head coach Mike Williams. “She does everything for us, she’s probably our most versatile player. She passes well, shoots it well, just a complete player.”

Since her freshman year, Tucker has appeared in all 61 games in her time as a Laker, and her efficiency in those games was downright gaudy. Last season, Tucker was ninth in the GLIAC in field goal percentage at 50.7 percent (39.6 percent on 3-pointers). Through seven games this year, she has shot 55.8 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range.

“I definitely pick and choose my shots,” Tucker said. “When I’m open, I shoot it, but I’m always looking for the best opportunity, whether if it’s a layup or an open teammate.”

Along with shooting percentage, Tucker leads the team in defensive rebounds (27). She’s second on the team in total rebounds per game (4.9), steals (12) and blocks (3). She’s third in points per game (10.1) and assists (15).

To do all of that consistently, Tucker says it’s all about having the right mindset.

“My first mindset is to be aggressive,” she said. “And being aggressive is both defense and offense. Defense is my main goal, because coach Williams stresses defense and I’ve always been a defensive player.”

While defense is a strength, Tucker feels she could be more aggressive on offense. Though she’s efficient, Tucker doesn’t put up nearly as many shots as the two scorers on the team ahead of her. Dawson has hoisted 94 field goal attempts, and Barnett has shot the rock 95 times. In comparison, Tucker has 52 field goal attempts.

Tucker says she’s working hard to be a more confident, aggressive player on the offensive side.

“In every practice I have three things that I focus on: I’m going to rebound, I’m going to be aggressive on offense, and then I’m going to get to the free throw line. Focusing on those three things in practice and even into the games helps a lot,” she said.

While Williams commends Tucker for her versatility and balance on both sides of the ball, he says her biggest strengths can’t be found in a stat sheet.

“I think number one is her communication and leadership,” he said. “Number two is her help defense off of the basketball, she’s always in position. Number three is her passing, as an inside player she passes the ball very well.”

With Dawson, Barnett, and Tucker, the Lakers have a trio that could prove to be a force to be reckoned with in the GLIAC. The three average a combined 39.6 points per game. When all three play well, the Lakers are hard to stop.

“When all three of them play well, we’re capable of beating good teams,” Williams said. “They’re high-octane players, meaning they can score a lot of points, and score points in bunches.”

Aside from all of the statistics and numbers, Tucker says at the end of the day, she just wants to be someone who her teammates can depend on.

“I like to think of myself as the rock, because I’m the center (position),” she said. “I need to hold my consistency and my mental game strong so my other teammates can be successful.”

So the next time you’re looking at a box score, try reading it from right to left—you might just notice something.