Travis DeCuire's first season as Montana's head coach was an overwhelming success.
Picked to finish eighth in the Big Sky by the conference's coaches, Montana won the regular season title, then advanced to the tournament championship before losing its grasp of an unexpected title in the final four minutes of the championship contest.
Now, DeCuire, heading into his second season at his alma mater hopes his first recruiting class can help improve upon his first season.
Montana on Wednesday announced the signings of junior college transfer Walter Wright along with high school recruits Bobby Moorehead, Michael Oguine and Jared Samuelson.
"It's a strong class," said DeCuire as he traveled back to Missoula from an alumni function in Spokane. "We feel like we're filling our needs with upcoming players that we'll develop into outstanding players in this program and some impact players that can help us right away."
The class includes two guards – Wright, who will be a junior, and Oguine – who could see minutes very early and two wings who will bring different skill sets to Montana's multiple-look offense. If everything goes to plan, the group will allow the Griz to play a more aggressive defense which should help speed the offense up to DeCuire's preferred tempo.
With the graduation of Jordan Gregory, it's likely that Wright, at 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, will see playing time right away with junior-to-be Mario Dunn. DeCuire envisions a back court similar to the ones he helped mentor as an assistant at California – and one that has helped a couple teams recently win NCAA titles.
"Our better teams had two point guards in the starting lineup," DeCuire said. "You watch teams in the postseason that make runs in the NCAA tournament – UConn wins a national championship with two point guards on the floor.
"I think that when you’ve got multiple handlers, guy who can create shots for themselves and others your team is more difficult to defend and allows you to be more aggressive on the defensive end."
Wright, who will finish class at the Utah college in May before joining the team for summer workouts in July, agrees with his new coach.
"I feel like his game can definitely compliment my game," Wright said of Dunn. "Him and I being on the floor at the same time can definitely speed up other teams. ... I think we can compliment each other and help put Montana over the top."
In his final season at Snow College, Wright – who came from Waterbury, Connecticut – averaged 22.6 points and 6.5 assists.
If Dunn and Wright aren't joined in the back court by Oguine next season, it won't be long after that the Los Angeles product will be mixing into the rotation.
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Ranked as the No. 29 player in California by ESPN, Oguine has a knack for the big moments. As a senior at Chaminade High, Oquine scored 32 points in the semifinals of the California Division 3 state tournament and then 19 of his 26 in the second half of the championship game as he helped Chaminade to the state title.
ESPN's scouting services described Oguine as a "slick PG who possesses great length (long arms), cat-like quickness, and a knack to break down the defense while penetrating to the rim. He can finish with either hand."
"Michael has played at a very high level, probably more ready right now to play a college game," DeCuire said of the 6-1, 175-pound guard.
DeCuire was less certain about the immediate futures of Samuelson, who comes as a legacy from Billings West, and Moorehead, a high-scoring wing from Tacoma's Stadium High.
"The other two are a little tougher read," Montana's coach conceded. "Bobby could use some weight and Jared has played at a high level AAU-wise and that will be interesting to see how quickly he adjusts to Division I basketball."
Samuelson, at 6-7 and 215 pounds, gives Montana's offense a few options that should benefit its preferred style. A two-time all-state selection as a Golden Bear and the son of Shawn Samuelson, who played at Montana from 1993-96, the combo forward's game stretches beyond the three-point play, but could also include the ability to play with his back to the basket in smaller lineups.
Samuelson averaged 16.3 points per game as a senior for West, which lost in the title game of the Class AA state tournament.
"He can give you that stretch 4 look or we can play power basketball with a lot of size on the floor because of the skill sets," DeCuire said.
Similar in size to Samuelson, Moorehead is a self-described shooter. DeCuire believes he'll develop into something far more difficult to defend.
"I think Bobby, as he develops in the years to come, will be someone who could become a great scorer for us," the coach said.
In his final year at Stadium High, Moorehead averaged 26.5 points and 11 rebounds a game for the Tigers. He was named the 4A Narrows League MVP, honorable mention all-state by the Associated Press, and WIBCA all-state."
"These are the types of players that provide us with an open-court style of offense, but also allow us to be what we want to be defensively," DeCuire said.