This is the first for two preseason looks at the Montana Grizzly men’s basketball team.
The Griz lose two starters from their front line in 6-9 Jordan Hasquet and 6-7 Kyle Sharp. Additionally they also graduated a very seasoned back up point guard Ceylon Elgin Taylor. They return enough depth at the point that the loss of Elgin Taylor should not be an issue although they might lose a little speed there. The front line though will be an issue. With the lose of Hasquet and Sharp they will only have one big man who has the experience of playing even one full season of college ball … at any level. The Big men are going to need to grow up fast.
The Griz will have a very deep and talented corps player at the point guard, shooting guard and small forward. The players at these spots are also very versatile which should allow Tinkle to put different type of team on the court as he sits fit. The Big men have the potential to be very good, but they are very young, and very few (only 4 big men on the roster). While this is speculation on my part I have to imagine that Tinkle is going to play some small ball at times, with McGillis, Banny, and/or Young manning the two forward spot and going with a single post.
Reviewing 4 preseason publications so far this past month it appears most of them have the Griz plugged solidly at finishing 3rd in the league.
Anthony Johnson 6-3 SG – Johnson is the hands down leading preseason candidate for Big Sky conference player of the year. Not a bad place to start. He returns with his 17 points a game scoring average (best in the conference) with hopes on improving on that. He also has a knack of drawing fouls, and when he is on the line he rarely misses (87% again best in the league). While recruited as a shooting guard, but moved into the starting line up at the point when Elgin-Taylor had academic problems, I expect him to stay this year at the point. At the point Johnson controls the ball and the more he has the ball the better the Griz are.
Ryan Staudacher 6-4 SG – The returning starting shooting guard, who was recently named as one of the top shooters in D-1 ball by Fox Sports, and yet every year I predict he may be lose his starting spot to a newcomer. Usually he proves me wrong. Still this year I think he will be pushed by new comer Raason Young. Ryan has very deep range, shoots a very high percentage from beyond the three point range and has a very quick release, still though he is not able to create his own shot. It would also be nice if he used a mid range game to support his deep game also. With Johnson running the point he will need to be more self reliant, but if he does he could be darn hard to stop offensively.
Jack McGillis 6-6 SF – The retuning starting small forward, I think Jack could also be challenged by new comer Young. From what I have heard from Tinkle this year it appears he want to run more, and that will suit Jacks games. Jack brings athleticism and jumping jack legs that allow him to take the ball to the hole, and he also can shot over the top smaller players. Jack though needs bring more consistency and leadership to the front court. The young guy’s will need that.
Raason Young 6-6 SF – Young was brought into the program to provide scoring and athleticism to the team. The Griz roster has him listed as solely as a small forward, but I know he played shooting guard primarily in the JC ranks, so I have a hard time seeing simply sharing time with McGillis at that position. With Tinkle touting this team as much more athletic than last years I suspect that we will see the both of them on the court at the same time. Look for Tinkle to play a lot of different line ups to take advantage of Young. Raason is a player, he can score, rebound, pass, shoot or post up all with a great deal of energy. He does have some control issues, which will need to refined but look for him to be an instant impact on the team.
Michael Taylor 6-3 PG/SG – Taylor should an all purpose guard off the bench filling in at the shooting guard and point guard spot. I think he will be in a battle along with Shawn Stockton, and Will Cherry for playing minutes. It is not guaranteed he his minutes will increase or even stay the same this year. What he does bring though is a nice combination of experience and versatility. He could start for some Big Sky teams.
Shawn Stockton 6-1 PG – The only true point guard on the team Like I said before he will be battling this fall to determine his role on the team. What he will bring is a steady quarterback who knows how to run a team. He will not have the flash of Cherry but will make fewer mistakes.
Will Cherry 6-1 SG/PG – Across the board, most internet recruiting services have named him the best freshman recruit in the Big Sky. I saw him play some this summer and I have talked to a few folks who have seen him play this fall, and he has been quite impressive. Cherry may indeed be the point guard of the future but this year he will be a true freshman. From what I have heard and seen I would not be all that surprised if he ended up being the first guard off the bench, but I also would not be surprised, given the depth of this team’s guards if ended up wearing a redshirt. I will say this though he is the guy to keep an eye on this fall.