Dillon, Mont. – The University of Montana Western men's basketball begins an uncertain 2020-21 season eager to hit the hardwood.
After months of uncertainty and a constantly shifting schedule, the Bulldog men's basketball team is set to open its season at home Nov. 28 and 29. Hosting the eighth ranked College of Idaho Yotes in a nearly empty Straugh Gymnasium.
what we are trying to do."
"I'm excited," head coach Mike Larsen said. "I feel like we have a really exciting team this year with a lot of new guys who we bought in, and really understand
Although the Bulldogs usually start their season at the end of October, Montana Western has seen games come and go and the schedule get pushed back. Finally, they are ready to see some game action. The Bulldogs know that things can, will, and have changed at a moment's notice, they haven't let the uncertainty of games being canceled, COVID protocols and all the other distractions mess with their focus.
"COVID hasn't affected us too bad," Larsen said. "We've made the most of it, we have had 27 practices so far unscathed and haven't had any issues."
"Our biggest thing is just to get one percent better every day," Larsen added. "We can't dictate when games are played or who we play or anything. So, if we can just continue to get better and take advantage of the opportunities presented for us, which is practice right now, and as games slowly come in and we get to play then it's just a matter of putting the product on the floor and seeing what we do."
The Bulldogs will have a new look this season as they return just two starters from last year's squad: Tanner Haverfield and Max Clark.
"Having those guys back is huge, they have really pushed our program to the next level," Larsen said. "Max has really elevated himself and has a goal to be the best player in our program. He's in shape and is shooting the ball at a high, high level."
Clark was 10th in the nation with an assist/turnover ratio of 2.8, dishing out 98 assists during the 2019-20 season.
"Max continues to pass the ball as he always has," Larsen said. "I think he's going to have a great senior year."
After losing 10 players from last year's squad, Larsen has brought in 11 fresh faces including a plethora of guards.
"I'm excited about our guards," Larsen said. "Bringing in guys like Jamal Stephenson, Treyton Paxton and Michael Haverfield. They all fit into what we do. We are a very unselfish team and pass the ball really well. Mix in guys like Carlos Allen and I feel confident that our guards have the length to guard on the defensive end of the floor but can really score on the offensive end."
Larsen has brought in some size with a couple of 6-7 bigs that play well around the basket.
"Grayson Nelson is a big guy who can put the ball in anywhere around the basket," Larsen said. "He reminds me of Connor Burkhart who doesn't miss a whole lot around the rim. Jok Jok is big kid who just shoots the heck out of the ball. He plays so hard and he's so long and fits our system really well."
Redshirt freshman Colter Miller has also worked his way into the rotation with a strong effort in practice.
"I feel good about us," Larsen said. "I'm confident and anxious to get out on the floor and see how it all shakes out."
The Bulldogs make their season debut on Saturday, Nov. 28 against the College of Idaho. Opening Tip is set for 4 p.m. The game can be heard on KDBM AM 1490 and can be streamed online.
Due to Frontier Conference COVID-19 protocols, spectators will not be permitted in the Straugh Gymnasium until further notice. All Bulldog Athletics home events can be streamed at www.bulldogsports.com/watch
Please check the website regularly for up-to-date schedules at www.umwbulldogs.com/sports/mens-basketball/schedule
For the latest on Montana Western Athletics, follow the Bulldogs on social media on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.