Bobcat Basketball Team Addresses Needs with Spring Recruiting Cl - News, Sports and Weather

Bobcat Basketball Team Addresses Needs with Spring Recruiting Class

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Montana State men's basketball continued its roster makeover Wednesday when second-year head coach Brian Fish added a quartet of junior college players.

In doing so Fish addressed what he identified as his program's most pressing needs. The Cats landed point guard Nahjee Matlock and big men with a wide array of skill sets in Shikei Blake, Sarp Gobeloglu and Tyson Kanseyo. Wednesday was the first day NCAA DIvision I basketball programs were allowed to sign recruits to National Letters-of-Intent. Taken as a group, Fish likes what the four bring to the table.

“I think shooting is the most important thing,” Fish said, “and I joke about this all the time, but instead of signing shooters I wanted to sign makers. These guys put the ball in the basket at a high percentage. But tied for second after shooting are speed and rebounding. I want a group that lets us turn the heat up on teams with pressure. I wanted to improve our overall speed, and I wanted to really improve our athleticism. I think we've addressed those things. And we found some guys that can really rebound the basketball, too.”

Fish's latest round of renovations starts in the backcourt, where Nahjee Matlock (who is “5-11 ½ when he wears a lot of socks,” according to his junior college coach Matthew Vargas) comes to the Bobcats from Tohono O'odham Community College in Arizona. He averaged 14.3 points, 4.4 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game as a sophomore this season. The Las Vegas, Nev., product finished a spectacular sprints career at a Palo Verde High School before transitioning full-time to the hardwood.

Fish says Matlock's explosiveness makes his team more dynamic. “I wanted someone that is a little different than Marcus (Colbert, a senior guard next season),” Fish said. “I like a lot of things Marcus does, but I think Nahj gives us some things we didn't have in the program. He can self-press, he can eliminate a guy just by guarding him, and his speed is something to be reckoned with. I'm a big believer that shooting is the most important thing a player can do, but I think speed is a hidden key to winning.”

Vargas echoed Fish's sentiments. “I like his ability to make people work 94 feet,” he said. “He gets up defensively in people and is literally relentless. Guys just have to work side-to-side, side-to-side. They don't get to go north-and-south a lot on him. That's always been really impressive to me. He's a former track star, a sprinter, out of Las Vegas, so when guys try to turn the corner on him it's fun to watch him close it up and make them have to work again. His relentless defensive pressure is something that's always been amazing to me.”

Matlock's offensive abilities aren't to be underestimated, Vargas cautioned. “Nahjee is really, really strong with the ball. He can take physical contact. He has ability to break people down off the dribble, he's very explosive. It's fun to watch. Because of his ability to make guys play off of him he's able to knock down the three-ball,” he said.

Blake brings a low-post presence to the Worthington Arena paint. The Region IX South Player of the Year and NJCAA All-America averaged a team-high 15.2 points a game at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colo. Originally from Wilmington, Del., the 6-7 post player gobbled up 8.2 rebounds a game, 10.1 in conference play, while shooting 55.1% from the floor. Blake also earned First Team All-Region and Region IX All-Tournament honors.

“He's a classic throwback post player,” Fish said. “He's got the up-under moves, he's got the step-back moves. I mean this as a compliment, but he has the rounded shoulders where you think you're a little closer to him than you are and he can separate with his body. He knows how to score, and I thought that getting points in the paint was our biggest weakness last year. He addresses that. He's 6-7, but when you go to his arm length he's 6-10, and that's what I look at. His length is very, very good.”

Northeastern coach Eddie Trenkle likes Blake's inside presence, as well. “He kind of plays the muscle game,” Trenkle said, “he can muscle you up on the block. He has a right-handed hook and a left-handed hook. He plays above the rim, competes, he's a big-time rebounder. He can also go to what everybody else is doing now, he can run as a step-out guy and shoot threes. I never asked him to do that, but he can do it. He's very gifted.”

Blake's work ethic is also an attribute, according to Trenkle. “He does all the little things you ask him to do,” Trenkle said. “If you ask him to be in the weight room to be stronger, he's there. If you ask him to work on a part of his game that maybe he's very weak at, he's in there working on it. If he likes you, he's going to do anything for you. That's one thing I really liked about the kid, he's one of those guys that does whatever you asked him to do. I coached at Idaho State for two years and I thought from the beginning that the Big Sky should be pounding this kid. He's a little under-sized, but I think he can be a really good player in that league.”

Kanseyo, originally from the Netherlands, comes to MSU as a sophomore next fall. He scored 8.3 points with 6.1 rebounds a game, shooting 51.0% from the floor. He blocked 25 shots as a freshman at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyo., this season.

“Tyson had to go to a junior college while the NCAA certified his transcript,” Fish said, “so we'll have him for three years. He's 6-foot-8, 6-foot-8 ½, 220, and he's a fantastic athlete. What I noticed the first time through the (Big Sky) is, (Weber State's Joel) Bolomboy is a fantastic athlete. (Montana center Martin) Breunig is a really good athlete, maybe the best player in the league. The bigs that are effective in our league are fantastic athletes that were taught how to play. He gives us athleticism that when he walks in the gym you go, ‘Wow, he should be a player.'”

Laramie County coach Jason Ficca lauds Kanseyo's tenacity. “He plays with a real high motor, runs the floor hard, attacks the rim hard both off the dribble and the offensive glass,” Ficca said. “He has a powerful jump and can finish with some contact. He has a nice package of skills. I think he's a good rebounder, he'll track the ball well, he rebounds out of his area fairly well. He plays with a lot of contact.”

A native of Turkey, the 6-10 Gobeloglu used an outside-in game to average 9.8 points per contest for a Gillette (Wyo.) College team that advanced to the NJCAA National Tournament in Hutchison, Kans. He also averaged 6.3 rebounds a game, shooting 48.7% from the floor and 33.9% from the arc. His 41 three-pointers were the most on the Gillette squad.

Fish likes Gobeloglu's versatility as a big man, and his ability to make those around him better. “He certainly has the ability to shoot the ball very well,” Fish said, “and he's a very good passer. We've really challenged this group on the love of the game and the type of teammate they are, and Sarp really shows that. In some games he led them in scoring when a guy was hurt or in foul trouble or whatever, and in others he maybe scored four points but helped the team in other ways, but his effort level never changed. He showed a team-first attitude all the time.”

Gillette coach Shawn Neary likes the range of positive attributes Gobeloglu displays. “With his size and his ability to shoot the basketball,” he said, “at our level and in the Big Sky he's going to stretch defenses. He's skilled for being 6-10, and he rebounds well. He brings a lot of different things to the table as a player. He's a good person and a really good teammate, he's determined to succeed, determined to graduate, determined to play basketball at as a high a level as possible. He's a really good person.”

Neary's squad also featured future Bobcat Quinton Everett, originally from Lakeland, Fla., who inked his National Letter-of-intent in the fall. Everett played one season at Little Big Horn College in Crow Agency, Mont., for Bobcat great Pete Conway before transferring to Gillette. He averaged 14.2 points per game, third on the team, with 3.9 boards and 2.4 assists.

Neary credits Everett's toughness for helping Gillette to the NJCAA Tournament. “I like Quinton's toughness, his competitiveness,” Neary said. “He plays hard. He's a little bit older so he's more mature than a lot of 18-, 19-year old juco kids. For us and for Pete (Conway) he scored a lot of points. He gets to the basket. I think he'll continue to improve his three-point percentage. He's tough, he's hard-nosed, he's a good on-ball defender. I thought he made us a national tournament-type team.”

Fish said Everett's ability to attack off the dribble fits his system well. “Quinton's a 6-foot-3, take-it-to-the-basket big guard. One of the things we like to do in our offense is either drive baseline or drive to the elbow. He can get where he wants to go, and he plays at a great pace. He played his first year (of junior college basketball) for one of the all-time great players here (Pete Conway) that gave him the highest of high recommendations, so that weighed heavily on us. We're very happy to have him.”

In addition to adding talent to the Bobcat program, Fish said the bringing his roster into balance was an important consideration in the composition of this year's recruiting class. In addition to the three freshmen signed in the fall, the three juniors and one sophomore joining this spring accomplishes that objective. “With Tyson, now we have him and Quinn (Price) and Zach (Green) as sophomores next year, the four new JC kids and Stephan (Holm) as juniors, and Danny (Robison) and Marcus (Colbert) as seniors. We have better balance in the classes.”

Still, Fish said, that was not the motivating force in this year's recruiting class. “These guys each bring things to the program that we need and that will help us,” Fish said. “And they're good people, student-athletes that will go to class and do the right things in the community and represent this University the right way. Those are the most important things.”


Story Contributed by MSU Sports Information.

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