GVSU’s Lutz provides solid foundation for Laker offense

GVL / Luke Holmes - 
Taylor Lutz (10) plays defense. Grand Valley had a victory over Lake Superior State Thursday, Feb. 12, 2016.

GVL / Luke Holmes – Taylor Lutz (10) plays defense. Grand Valley had a victory over Lake Superior State Thursday, Feb. 12, 2016.

Beau Troutman

When a player hits a deep 3-pointer, or a smooth layup off of a perfectly executed pick-and-roll at Fieldhouse Arena, the bellowing voice of public address announcer Kevin Melnyk rings throughout the stadium, announcing the player who made the bucket.

Through all of the “Ts for threes,” cheers from the stands and cries from the pep band after a made shot, one statement gets lost in translation: who the shot was assisted by. One name that consistently finds itself in this category—102 times this season, to be exact—is Taylor Lutz, the Grand Valley State point guard.

“I don’t want to come across as being biased, but she’s unreal,” said GVSU associate head coach Phil Sayers. “When you think of what you want in your team and in an individual, it’s Tay Lutz.”

The junior point guard has started all 27 games for the Lakers this season, and has been a model of consistency in her three years running the point. She averages 6.4 points per game and leads the team with her 102 assists—the hallmark of her game.

“I try and draw two players to get shooters open, make sure I give them a good pass right in their shot pocket so they can sink the shot without having to adjust,” Lutz said. “If I know someone’s hit a couple, I’ll try and set them up another time.”

It’s her ability to facilitate a Laker offense that features several dynamic scorers that’s given GVSU such a consistent attack the past two seasons.

One statistic the Laker coaching staff takes a close look at is a player’s assist-to-turnover ratio (A/TO), which is indicative of a given player’s ball control. In Lutz’s freshman season, she appeared in all 26 games and started the last 12. In that season, she was second on the team in assists (65) and was third in the GLIAC in A/TO (2.4 per game).

In her sophomore season, both numbers grew. She ranked second on the team in assists with 70, and her 2.4 A/TO led the GLIAC.

“You don’t realize how good she is until she’s not on the floor,” Sayers said. “You don’t realize her impact until she’s sitting next to you on the bench out there, and it’s different. Her ability to make decisions under pressure and read one, two, three different options at one time is unbelievable.”

This season, Lutz has set her career high in assists — and the season isn’t even over. Her 2.9 A/TO, another career best, leads the GLIAC.

“She’s the glue to our offense, and the glue to our team,” said GVSU head coach Mike Williams. “Kind of the silent leader. She has such a great understanding of the game, and knows where to be all the time. She’s our safety net.”

Though her 6.4 points per game is the lowest of any player in the starting five, it’s the points-responsible-for statistic where Lutz makes her mark. With her assists totals and the flow she brings to the offense, it allows players like Kayla Dawson, Bailey Cairnduff and Brionna Barnett to thrive.

“I (couldn’t) care less if I score a point in the game,” Lutz said. “If my team’s scoring and my team’s winning, that’s what matters.”

With Barnett, GVSU’s starting shooting guard, missing the last eight games with a back injury, Lutz’s role in the offense has become all-the-more important. With reserve guard Janae Langs taking Barnett’s spot, Lutz is now the primary scorer in the backcourt.

Sayers said the Lakers are still asking for more from their savvy point guard. She’s stepped up her game with the absence of Barnett, one of the team’s top two players. The Lakers are 5-3 with Lutz and Langs manning the backcourt, and should Barnett not be back in time for the postseason, the coaching staff is confident Lutz can lead the offense.

Though fans and media will likely go on, oblivious to the “assisted by…” announcement from Melnyk at games, the silent leader for the Lakers is just going to keep doing her thing.

“You don’t realize how good of a kid you have, and we probably won’t realize how good of a kid we have until she’s graduated next year,” Sayers said. “It’ll be hard to replace her.”