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Nicholas leaves Montana basketball program

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MISSOULA — The exodus of freshmen from the Big Sky Conference champions continued on Friday. This time, it’s one of Montana’s most talented rookies that is leaving the Grizzlies.

After weeks of rumors and speculation, standout freshman Karl Nicholas announced he is leaving the UM program on Thursday afternoon.

Montana forward Karl Nicholas (5) spins to the basket against Montana State/by Brooks Nuanez

Nicholas posted on his personal Twitter account:

Nicholas’ announcement comes eight days after freshmen point guard Lars Espe and center Admir Besovic along with sophomore shooting guard Niko Bevins left the UM program.

 During a 26-win season that included a bulldozing of the Big Sky with a 16-2 mark, Nicholas was one of two true freshmen to play in head coach Travis DeCuire’s eight-man rotation. Nicholas played in 30 games, contributing 3.5 points and 2.3 rebounds in 9.6 minutes per game. He played in 17 of 18 conference games, chipping in 3.3 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.

The 6-foot-8, 212-pounder from Pearland, Texas outside of Houston scored in double figures four times this season, including in conference wins over North Dakota and Montana State.

He converted all eight of his field goal attempts and ran the court with reckless abandon during a 17-point performance as UM scored 109 points, its most since 1992, in a 30-point win over UND.

Montana forward Karl Nicholas (5) blocks Southern Utah guard Dre Marin’s (4)/by Todd Goodrich, UM athletics

He converted 6-of-7 shots from the floor in 20 minutes — his second-highest total of the season — in a 90-63 win over the rival Bobcats, the Grizzlies’ second-largest margin of victory ever against their fierce rivals.

After that Montana State win, Nicholas as a non-factor as DeCuire moved to a seven-man rotation that included just sophomore forward Sayeed Pridgett and true freshman guard Timmy Falls as its bench players. Nicholas played just five minutes the rest of the season, getting his one  “did not participate” against a Big Sky team in UM’s home win over Idaho State and not stepping off the bench in Montana’s 82-65 win over Eastern Washington in the championship game of the Big Sky Tournament.

During the end of UM’s epic rally to dispatch of EWU — the Grizzlies recorded defensive stops on 18 of 19 possessions to extinguish an 11-point halftime deficit — and during the post-game celebration, Nicholas appeared to be clearly disappointed despite his team’s recent triumph.

UM earned a No. 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament and played No. 3 Michigan, the eventual national runner-up. Montana lost 61-47 to the Wolverines and Nicholas recorded his second straight DNP.

The first player from Texas to ever suit up for the Grizzlies prepped at Glenda Dawson High in Pearland. He earned Texas District 22-6A MVP honors his senior year by helping the Eagles to a 27-8 mark during his senior season. He was ranked as the No. 17 prep prospect in the Lone Star State.

“He’s a high-level athlete, high motor, plays hard, competes for every ball, and has the ability to step in and be a good defender for us right away, and be a good finisher for us right away with a ton of upside,” DeCuire said when Nicholas signed. “We’re excited to add him to our family as a player, a student, and as a person.”

No indication has been made what opportunity Nicholas might pursue. This story will be updated.

Three depart from Griz basketball program

Photos by Brooks Nuanez or noted. All Rights Reserved. 

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 12 year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to founded Skyline Sports.

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