Division 1-2-3 First Team love spread out evenly

Gwinn's Tucker Taylor drives to the basket as Negaunee's Drew DuShane defends in the third quarter of their MHSAA Division 3 district tournament championship game played at Lakeview Memorial Gym in Negaunee on Friday, March 1, 2019. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

MARQUETTE — The central Upper Peninsula may have landed only one player on the All-U.P. Dream Team — Marquette senior Marius Grazulis — but they had much better luck in First Team balloting.

In the end, three area players were honored with spots on the squads with Gwinn’s Tucker Taylor and Negaunee’s Jason Waterman making the Division 1-2-3 First Team and Munising’s Anthony Mattson getting voted onto the Division 4 First Team at the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association annual meeting on Tuesday.

Taylor, a West PAC Dream Team member and Mid-Peninsula Conference First Teamer, averaged 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game while registering 21 blocks and taking 15 charges on defense.

Statistically, it was easy to see how he was a force to deal with at both ends of the court, but Modeltowners head coach Jim Finkbeiner said that what sets Taylor apart is his impressive consistency.

“The last three years that I’ve directly been coaching him, I think really tell the story,” Finkbeiner said. “Every year, he’s a consistent performer. He averages 18 to 20 points per game and 11 to 12 rebounds a game. A couple of steals, a couple of blocks, a couple of charges.

“He’s just a consistent, hard-working player. As much as he scores points because he had to be one of those guys doing it, he’s still an unselfish player.

“He just wants to win games. He just wants to be successful and the good thing that I’ve seen in him the last two years in getting these individual honors is that he’s not all wrapped up in that.

“He just wants to win games and be successful. He got a few accolades last year, but he’s just a kid that just wants to win. He’s shown it on the football field and shown it on the basketball floor.

“Between last year and this year, he worked on the things we needed him to work on like handling the ball. He’s just a kid who comes to work every day. Even though we didn’t have the best record, we played well at the right time at the end of the year.

“We made it to the district final for the first time in nine years and a big part of that was Tucker. He was definitely the team leader and he took that role and he was willing to do what he could for the team. I just see good things in the future.”

While Taylor dominates the paint, Waterman goes a different route. The Miners’ junior is known for his silky-smooth jump shot as he shot 51.9 percent from beyond the arc, but he was also sharp at the charity stripe where he made 84.8 percent of his free throws.

“He’s an elite-level shooter,” Negaunee head coach Dan Waterman said. “He shot 52 percent from beyond the arc and 85 percent from the free throw line and 58 percent from the field.

“He was the focal point of every team’s defense. I think he takes good shots. There was a lot of focus on him, especially earlier in the year and then with the emergence of Jakson (Sager) and Drew (Lindberg), teams had to kind of change how they defended us.

“I thought he did a really good job of handling that and not forcing bad shots. When he gets his feet set and gets a look at the rim, it usually goes in.”

Jason Waterman isn’t just about offense, though, as his father said that Jason has also improved on the other end of the court.

“He’s been our best box-out guy since his freshman year,” Coach Waterman said. “I think this year he did a better job of going and rebounding and actually getting the ball for us. His understanding of our defense, too, has just been better.

“He’s been a varsity starter for three years, so he’s seen a lot of things and the thing that I’m proudest about, is getting kids to talk in high school is really hard, and he was very vocal on the defensive end. I think that made us a lot better defensive team this year.”

Taylor and Waterman were joined on the Division 1-2-3 First Team by West Iron County’s Caden Pellizzer, Escanaba’s Jared Nash and Houghton’s Brad Sirard.

In Division 4, Mattson led the Mustangs to a district title and did that with a torn ACL. While Taylor used his inside game and Waterman hit shots on the perimeter, Mattson tries to do both.

Despite the knee injury, he attacked the rim effectively and was comfortable hitting outside shots as well.

Even though he missed four games, Mattson earned Skyline Central Conference Player of the Year honors and averaged 18.4 points, nine rebounds and 3.4 assists per game.

Dollar Bay’s Ashton Janke, Engadine’s Andrew Blanchard, Ewen-Trout Creek’s Jaden Borseth and Brimley’s Marcus Harris rounded out the First Team.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.