HOUGHTON - Fresh off a successful freshman year by Superior Central's Jordan Chartier, the Michigan Tech men's basketball team has added two more central Upper Peninsula players with A.J. Grazulis of Marquette and Tanner Uren of Negaunee agreeing to be walk-ons for the upcoming season.
Grazulis and Uren make it three U.P. walk-ons in the last two seasons for the Huskies, joining Kingsford's Jeff Gregory last year.
"I am hoping that they can eventually contribute," Tech coach Kevin Luke said. "We look at walk-ons as not any different than a recruited kid, to be honest with you. We are hoping that some day they are going to earn a scholarship and play. I am not looking for a practice player.
A.J. Grazulis (52) of Marquette Senior High School goes up for a shot against several Traverse City Central defenders during an MHSAA Class A district tournament game played in the Redmen’s gymnasium on March 6. Tanner Uren, right, of Negaunee drives to the hoop against Marquette’s Andrew Nyquist during the fourth quarter of a game played Dec. 13 in Marquette. (Journal file photo)
Tanner Uren, right, of Negaunee drives to the hoop against Marquette’s Andrew Nyquist during the fourth quarter of a game played Dec. 13 in Marquette. (Journal file photo)
"Both kids are nice additions for our program."
Grazulis - who was selected All-U.P. First Team after averaging 12 points per game as a senior - stood out to Luke and MTU assistant coach Josh Buettner for both his work ethic and potential playing under MSHS coach Brad Nelson.
Undersized at 6-foot-6 for a center, Grazulis makes up for the difference in height with an intensity and instinct under the hoop that can't be taught.
"He has great hands and he has a tremendous motor. He goes," Luke said. "He is the first one to hit the floor, he doesn't stop and he is willing to listen and learn. He has a chance to be a pretty big kid, especially if he gets a little bit taller. He will be a handful in there."
The hope that Grazulis could add an inch or two is not just blind optimism on Luke's part, either.
"He is very young. Very young," Luke said. "He is only 17 years old, so he might still (grow) a few inches."
Along with Grazulis, Uren rounds out the roster with a pronounced U.P. hoops resume. He was a three-year member of Negaunee varsity, which reached the Class C quarterfinals each year and made it to the semifinals at Michigan State University before bowing out last season under the guidance of coach Mike O'Donnell.
At 6-3, Uren was a natural forward but handled the ball well enough to fit in at guard whenever the situation called for it.
Luke believes learning behind the likes of all-conference caliber shooting guards Ben Stelzer and Austin Armga for several years will prepare Uren for the rigors of GLIAC play.
"Tanner comes from a great program, he plays hard, and I'll tell you, he is fairly skilled," Luke said. "He has a good basketball mind and he is a tough kid."