BY NIC HALLISEY, Montana Sports Information
When Michael Steadman made the decision in the spring of 2019 to transfer from San Jose State, he had two criteria for where he would finish out his collegiate career.
First, he wanted a place that would develop his game to the next level. Second, he wanted to win.
After ranking among the Mountain West’s leaders for scoring, shooting and rebounding in 2018-19, Steadman had plenty of opportunities to pursue. He was even getting looks from a handful of Pac-12 programs.
But when Montana associate head coach Chris Cobb made a trip down to the Bay in April 2019, Montana jumped in Steadman’s pecking order.
“Coach Cobb came down and saw me the week before my visit,” Steadman recalled. “He actually came and sat down with me and my family and laid out his plan for me. He didn’t have to do that; he could have waited for me to come to him the next week.”
Steadman appreciated Cobb’s dedication and was convinced that Montana could check both his requirements. Following his on-campus visit in early April he committed to Montana. The moment his final semester at San Jose State was complete, he moved to Missoula.
The next year-plus had its ups and downs.
It included a redshirt season that was trying. The Grizzlies had another solid season, winning 18 games and finishing in the top three in the Big Sky Conference, but Steadman wanted to be out there with his teammates. The hardest part was going through a workout hours before a game, only to have to sit in street clothes once the ball was tipped. Or even worse, training with his teammates all week but having to watch online when the Grizzlies were playing on the road.
“It was really hard,” Steadman said. “I’d work out before the games knowing I’m not going to play, and then I’d sit and watch a whole two-hour game knowing there was nothing I could do to help my team.”
That’s in the past now. Eighteen months after moving to Missoula, and a season spent off the court, Steadman is eager to officially get started.
And while his numbers at San Jose State were strong, he thinks he has even more in him.
Steadman put on some weight after moving to Missoula, hitting as high as 250 after playing in the 230s during most of his time at San Jose State.
Crediting his structured workouts with strength coach Brandon Ronan, getting more sleep and paying attention to what he was eating, Steadman is now down to 215.
It was something he felt he needed to change in order to play at the level – especially on defense – that head coach Travis DeCuire demanded.
So far, the results are paying off.
“Man, I feel good,” Steadman said. “I’m able to get up and down the court a lot easier, I feel quicker, my knees don’t hurt as bad. It’s been a blessing and I’m so glad I put in the work to make the changes.”
The transformation was part of the plan all along. When Steadman told DeCuire during the recruiting process that he wanted to play at the next level, the veteran coach identified two major changes that he thought could help the talented post player. First was shooting at a higher percentage – even though he ranked third in the Mountain West in 2019 – and the second was taking better care of his body.
“He very easily could be in the Pac-12 right now,” DeCuire said. “But the most important thing to him was to become the best basketball player he could become, and we identified some areas that could help him do that if he focused on the right things. The fact that we identified some areas of improvement, and showed him how we could help him improve, helped us separate from some of the other opportunities that were out there.”
DeCuire, though, was quick to credit Steadman for taking what the coaching staff gave him and committing to it.
“Those things have been his No. 1 focus since he’s been here, and I think he’s done a good job of working on them.”
In addition to how he lifts and conditions, Steadman goes to bed earlier now, understanding the importance of getting plenty of rest. He also has a better grasp of what he’s consuming. After previously eating out more often than not, he now cooks for himself six nights a week, removing much of the fast food and processed food.
Steadman has yet to step on the court for the Grizzlies, but is already making waves across the Big Sky Conference. On Tuesday he was named to the league’s preseason all-conference team, reserved for the top six players, voted on by coaches.
To those internally, who see Steadman on a daily basis, the accolade is not a surprise. But for those outside of Montana’s gym to recognize what he can bring to the league? It speaks volumes.
“There’s a level of respect for what the young man has done in the Mountain West,” DeCuire said. “Those numbers typically translate, especially for a post player in a system that is conducive for post players. I think coaches around the league recognize what he did in the Mountain West, and I think they recognize the success we’ve had in building post players.”
In his one season on the court for San Jose State, Steadman earned 29 starts and played in all 31 games for the Spartans. He averaged 13.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, scoring in double figures 23 times, including 11 double-doubles. He led his team for scoring, rebounding, shooting, minutes played and blocked shots.
“It’s cool to get that type of recognition,” Steadman said. “It’s preseason, though, so I still have to go out there and prove myself.”
Steadman, who earned his bachelor’s degree in business management in May, has already shown he is improving his all-around game. The next step will be to win.
Perhaps his success and the team’s success can go hand in hand.