Montana

Opening sequence of Maroon-Silver scrimmage impressive for Griz men’s hoops

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The Montana Grizzlies showed a glimpse of their terrifying potential Tuesday in the Maroon vs. Silver scrimmage before settling down into the sloppy early-season basketball that head coach Travis DeCuire said he expected. Here are some takeaways from Skyline Sports’ first look at the defending Big Sky Conference champions.

Blazing Start

Before breaking his roster up into two roughly even teams, DeCuire ran one six-minute period with his top returners — including four starters — and some key reserves against the backups and freshmen. Reader: it was a mismatch.

The first team outscored the backups 19-2 over the six-minute stretch, capped with a last-second 3-pointer by sophomore Timmy Falls. Senior point guard Ahmaad Rorie had a couple tough buckets, senior swingman Michael Oguine finished a 3-point play, and junior forward Donaven Dorsey found senior wing Bobby Moorehead for a 3 after some good ball movement.

“The first six minutes, you get the bulk of your rotation on the floor, and I think that’s a little more representative of our product,” DeCuire said. “You get shots when you expect shots, you execute on defense a little better.”

Oguine, Rorie, Moorehead and Jamar Akoh are returning starters, and they’re joined by Falls and Sayeed Pridgett (who got the start along the foursome and appears to be the front-runner to fill Fabijan Krslovic’s vacant spot). That group was joined by Dorsey and redshirt freshman Kelby Kramer in the opening period, which is a pretty good guess as to what the rotation will be at the start of the season, at least. It’s a scary, scary group that appears to be even more in sync and comfortable with each other than last season.

The New Guys

Donaven Dorsey

Dorsey was the most heralded addition to the team after transferring from Washington, sitting out a year, and then missing a whole season with a health scare that took more than a year to recover from. He was largely anonymous and shot poorly on Tuesday, but showed glimpses of what he can be for the Griz, who used him at various times as a post player, screener, playmaker from the elbows, and spot-up shooter.

Seattle Pacific transfer Tony Miller, who’s ineligible this year, showed out with 10 points and seven rebounds, including making a 3-pointer and getting some tough buckets inside. His 6-foot-7 frame is certainly a D-I body even if he’s spent the last few seasons playing Division II.

Eddy Egun stood out among the freshmen with seven points and some good defense. Lastly, Bozeman’s Mack Anderson, although he didn’t score, drew some eyes by winning the opening tip against the first team and then later with two emphatic blocks, one against Akoh in transition and the other against Australian freshman Ben Carter in the post.

Still Early

Montana forward Sayeed Pridgett (4)/by Brooks Nuanez

The actual competitive part of the scrimmage matched the Silver team, led by Oguine, Pridgett, Akoh and Moorehead, against the Maroon (Rorie, Falls, Dorsey, Kramer). It was not particularly compelling basketball, although there were moments. Maroon shot just 10-of-38 from the field, including 2-of-17 from 3. The Silver team was better, thanks mostly to Akoh dominating inside — the senior says he lost about 10 pounds over the summer and feels quicker and more explosive— but still shot just 2-of-14 on 3-pointers.

According to the official stats, both teams had more turnovers than assists.

“It was about as sloppy as I expected,” were DeCuire’s first words to the media afterwards. DeCuire chalked it up to still being early in the season. The Griz won’t play another exhibition game until November 2 against Whitworth, and won’t open their season for real for another week after that game, when they host Georgia State on November 9.

Quick Hits: Rorie led all scorers with 14 points. Unlike Akoh, he looks like he’s added lean muscle going into the season…Falls threw two behind-the-back passes in 23 minutes of burn, by far the highest ratio on the team (which combined to throw zero others)…former Billings Skyview star Kendal Manuel had two points in 14 minutes. He’s also ineligible to play this season after transferring from Oregon State…Pridgett looked good with 11 points, but DeCuire said the fifth starting spot is still undecided. He named Dorsey, Falls, and Kramer as possible candidates along with Pridgett…the coach ended an argument Oguine was having with a referee over a called travel by simply saying, “You traveled, bro,” to his star guard.

Lady Griz

Prior to the boys’ game, the Lady Griz also got on the court for their open scrimmage, won 62-45 by the Maroon team.

Returning Stars 

Montana guard McKenzie Johnston (32)/by Brooks Nuanez

Junior McKenzie Johnston led all scorers with 14 points and was in control of the game throughout. Jace Henderson, Montana’s lone senior, had 11 points and nine rebounds. Junior Madi Schoening equaled Johnston with 14 points and junior Taylor Goligoski scored 13 despite splitting time between the two teams. Those are four of the five top returning scorers for the Lady Griz, so seeing them pick up where they left off was important for coach Shannon Schweyen.

“Taylor played well, I think [Johnston] had a solid game,” Schweyen said. “Of course Jace had a solid game, but everyone had a few moments where they had some nice plays.”

New Faces

Guard Sammy Fatkin stood out right away, going toe-to-toe with Johnston as the point guard for the Silver team. The sophomore Arizona transfer will not be able to play this year, but showed that she’s a competent ball handler and very good on-ball defender.

Among players who are eligible to play this year, freshman Carmen Gfeller was the standout, with 11 points and seven rebounds. At 6-foot-1, Gfeller is one of the tallest players on the team, and has the chance to earn time behind Henderson in the post.

“Hopefully we’ve got some depth, because I feel like we certainly have some kids that can step in and help,” Schweyen said.

Quick Hits: Shooting may still be an issue. The teams combined to shoot 7-of-28 from behind the arc. Only freshman Jordyn Schweyen made more than one 3-ball…Schweyen, who is head coach Shannon Schweyen’s daughter, scored eight points to go with five rebounds…Emma Stockholm had 10 and eight rebounds…Fatkin led all players with five assists…Coach Schweyen offered an update on injured guard Sophia Stiles, who tore her ACL last season in the midst of a breakout freshman campaign. According to Schweyen, Stiles has been participating in a limited role at practice, but is still a ways from doing full-contact work. A best-case scenario would have her back on the court sometime in the middle of the season. The former Montana Gatorade Player of the Year averaged 7.6 points per game last season as a true freshman.

About Andrew Houghton

Andrew Houghton grew up in Washington, DC. He graduated from the University of Montana journalism school in December 2015 and spent time working on the sports desk at the Daily Tribune News in Cartersville, Georgia, before moving back to Missoula and becoming a part of Skyline Sports in early 2018.

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