MISSOULA — Head coach Travis DeCuire and the Montana men’s basketball team took the floor focused on the product on the court instead of the rulings in the courts.
The Griz, like most teams across the country, opened official practices on Friday against the backdrop of the FBI’s investigation into corruption and bribery within college basketball that rocked the sports world earlier this week. No current or former Montana coaches have been reported to be involved in the FBI’s probes, as of Friday night.
“We’re in a good spot,” DeCuire said of the first day of practice. “We’re competing. Thursday we came in for a short workout with a lot of energy. Today was the same, but it was our first 2 ½, 3-hour workout, so we’re not necessarily conditioned for a workout that long right now.
"After coming out of this summer, I felt like we needed to rest bodies and recover and shorten the season a little bit because we got off to such an early start in August. Our conditioning is probably where we’re behind. As far as the X’s and O’s, playing together and playing with intensity, I like where we’re at.”
The Griz ran through position-specific work, fast break drills and three-on-three work. They also went with free-throw shooting, short conditioning, shooting from various spots and four-on-four situational drills.
“It felt great,” said junior Michael Oguine. “I’m excited. It’s time to go. We’ve been getting good workouts in, but it’s not the same where you get to go a full 2 ½ hours.
“I feel good (physically). We’ve been going hard. This is the time to get into shape, so I expect these first few practices to be pretty tough.”
Montana is coming off a season in which it went 16-16 overall and 11-7 in Big Sky play. The season ended with a loss in the quarterfinals of the Big Sky tournament and didn’t feature a postseason tournament appearance.
The Griz return three starters in senior forward Fabijan Krslovic, Second Team All-BSC guard Ahmaad Rorie and Oguine, a Third Team All-BSC guard.
They also bring back sophomore Sayeed Pridgett, who was named the team’s most improved player, junior Bobby Moorehead and sophomore Trever Spoja.
The team will also look to nine newcomers to help replace the loss of seven players, including starter Jack Lopez, who led the team in 3-point shooting at 43.9 percent, and Walter Wright, the team’s third-leading scorer who recently signed with a team in Slovakia.
Two of the newcomers are juniors Donaven Dorsey and Jamar Akoh, who redshirted with the Griz last year as transfers, so they have a year of experience with the team. Sophomore Niko Bevens has playing experience as a transfer from North Idaho College, a junior college.
The six true freshmen include guards Timmy Falls and Lars Espe, forwards Karl Nicholas and Peter Jones, and centers Kelby Kramer and Admir Besovic.
“We need everybody to improve their games, be coachable and have the veterans step up,” Rorie said. “We have a lot of talent, so we need to take that coaching well.
“We want to have contagious energy, and we need to feed off our chemistry. When we have adversity and play on the road without huge crowds, we need energy to play through that adversity and now’s the time to learn that.”
NOTES: The Maroon-Silver scrimmage is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 24, with the men's game at 5:30 p.m. followed by the women's game at 7 p.m. ... Besovic is with the team after missing the Costa Rica practices and trip while being cleared by the NCAA. He averaged 11.2 points and 6.8 rebounds as a high school senior. … Jones has joined the team as a walk-on. He averaged 4.8 points as a high school senior. … Former Griz player Riley Bradshaw has rejoined the program as a student manager while he completes his degree, DeCuire said.