Pass-first Stieber fitting in at Green Bay
By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – In high school, Lucas Stieber did it all on the basketball court.
As a senior at Green Bay Southwest, he averaged 13.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.
This season, as a redshirt freshman on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay men’s basketball team, Stieber hasn’t needed to do it all.
The point guard has settled into a role and been able to concentrate on the part of the game he loves the most: dishing out assists.
Stieber said he isn’t surprised by his role on the team, but he’s a little surprised by how much playing time he’s been getting.
After coming off the bench the first six games of the season, he’s started 15 games since.
“I was just hoping to get on the court, honestly,” Stieber said. “I was focused on doing the little things. Starting and playing time isn’t important to me. Winning is all that matters.”
Stieber is averaging 4.2 points, 4 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 26.5 minutes per game.
His 89 total assists lead the team.
First-year head coach Will Ryan said Stieber getting into the starting lineup happened as a matter of circumstances.
“We had some injuries early on,” he said. “Josh Jefferson was starting at the 2 for us, and then he had an injury and couldn’t play. Lucas gets everybody involved and sets us up. PJ Pipes, who was starting at the point for us, is a talented player, but we felt like he was better suited off the ball. So, that’s when Lucas sets in, and he’s been a calming influence. He gets into what we’re trying to run, gets us into our offense and is an extension of the coaching staff out there.”
During early-season practices, Stieber said he showed his ability in several areas.
“Coach Ryan appreciates the little things,” he said. “I’m not a guy that lights up the stat sheet or is going to blow you off the court with his quickness or athleticism, but I take pride in my passing ability and the way I take care of the ball. The little plays are going to get you more minutes, and that was my focus since Day 1.”
Stieber, who is the grandson of coaching legend Dick Bennett and nephew of University of Virginia men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett, racked up a career-high 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting in a Jan. 23 victory over Purdue Fort Wayne.
Ryan said he’s been encouraging Stieber to shoot more when he has open looks.
“I haven’t known him for long, but he wasn’t a prolific scorer in high school and probably won’t be here,” he said. “He’d rather get an assist and set up his teammate. He’s a pass-first point guard, and you love to have those guys.”
Stieber’s 14-point game wasn’t a fluke – he’s always been an accurate shooter.
“I noticed we were in a scoring slump with about seven or eight minutes left,” he said. “Once I saw my first 3-pointer go down, that was huge. My teammates kept feeding it to me on the wing and trying to get me going in transition. I need to be a threat, whether that’s coming off ball screens or finding myself in transition. If teams play me for the pass, it’s going to be like playing 4-on-5.”
After starting the season 8-for-30 (26.7%) from 3-point range, Stieber has settled into a better groove from beyond the arc.
“I’d rather have double digits in assists than points, but the points will come,” said Stieber, who had a career-high eight assists against Northern Kentucky Feb. 12. “You can ask anybody on the team – I’m not looking to shoot. I’m a pass-first guy. If my teammates trust me and put me in a position to succeed and get shots, I have confidence in my abilities – saying that humbly. I’m not trying to come off as a cocky guy. I have lots of trust in my abilities because I put up lots of shots in the summertime.”
Even though Ryan didn’t recruit Stieber, the freshman has fit into his coach’s scheme.
“It has worked well,” Stieber said. “We emphasize ball movement. As someone who loves to pass, that’s important to me. We have lots of talented players, so being able to find them on the perimeter or cutting has been fun.”
Ryan said he likes bigger guards.
Stieber is 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds.
“In our system, bigger guards bode well for us,” said Ryan. “He’s a freshman, and he’s got lots of room to grow and improve, which he will. Throwing him to the wolves right away will bode well for him and pay dividends later on.”
For the rest of the season, Stieber said he’d like to continue to improve on the court as he becomes more acclimated to the college game.
“I want to keep my assist numbers high and turnover numbers low and hopefully get a conference championship,” he said. “Winning is the only thing that matters to me.”