The graduation of senior Brian Qvale leaves a near 7-foot hole in the Grizzlies' lineup, but outside of the center's absence, this fall's team will likely look very similar to the group from this spring. To add more names to the roster, coach Wayne Tinkle will have to make room first.
Tinkle won't have scholarship offers to work with if he wants to lure any more players to Missoula during the spring signing period after the addition of two recruits from last fall. Jordan Gregory and Kevin Henderson make 14 Grizzly basketball players under scholarship, one more than the maximum allowed.
To make room for the two incoming players — and any others put on scholarship in the next few weeks — Tinkle's current roster will likely need some trimming. But that can and often does happen, the coach said.
"Some players may not be on the same page with the direction we're going," Tinkle said, but not specifically referring to any of his present players. "People may leave the team."
Replacing Qvale won't be easy, but losing the inside presence will affect the team in more than just post play. A smaller team will have to rely more on outside shooting, a facet of the game that was no friend to the Griz last season. The team shot 46 percent from the field, thanks in large part to Qvale under the basket, but just 31 percent from 3-point range, near worst in the Big Sky Conference.
The addition of incoming recruit Gregory to a squad that went 21–10 last season could make an impact in that category right away. The 6-foot-2 guard out of East High School in Pueblo, Colo., led the state in scoring as a junior with 24 points per game and improved that number to 27 per game as a senior. He's a two-time Colorado All-State selection with "high character," Tinkle said.
The East High team lost in the first round of the state tournament in February, though, after Gregory was suspended for the game following an ejection in the previous contest.
Gregory committed to playing for the Grizzlies last September.
Tinkle's other acquisition thus far is the 6-foot-4 Henderson, who committed to play at Montana in October. Tinkle said Henderson, an Auburn High School product from the Seattle, Wash. area, will likely play wing for the Griz because of his size. A team captain at Auburn, Henderson led his team to the state 4A tournament with 22 points per game.
The new Grizzlies could be joined by more young players coming on this spring if openings appear. One such possible candidate is Columbia Falls senior Nick Emerson, who has said he plans to walk on with the team this fall. The 6-foot-5 guard led his team to the Montana Class A title behind a 22–1 record and 16.6 points per game.