BILLINGS – Heading into his senior year last fall at Havre High School, Dane Warp was considered a “diamond in the rough” college football prospect.
Bleacher Report chronicled Warp’s athletic exploits – both at Havre and at summer camps in front of college scouts from around the region – and detailed his quest to obtain scholarship offers from Division I football programs.
Warp, who set all sorts of program records for the Blue Ponies, has decided on another path, though. He will play basketball at Carroll College for coach Carson Cunningham.
If the weekend’s performances during the annual Montana-Wyoming all-star basketball series are any indication, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard made the right choice. Warp led the Montana all-stars with 23 points in Friday’s 93-79 win at Sheridan College.
He followed that up with a team-high 19 points on Saturday to pace Montana in a 102-81 win at the Fortin Center.
“I don’t know when I decided (to pick basketball over football) exactly, but it was probably during basketball (season),” said Warp, who was named Montana’s Mr. Basketball before Saturday’s game. “We had just finished football, and it just felt like there was a finality to the season. That was kind of where I thought I would finish (football) and just continue playing basketball.”
His junior and senior seasons at Havre were a bit of a roller-coaster ride. He had burst on the Montana sports scene as one of the best athletes in Class A in the years prior, and rumors began to circulate that Warp might be a big-time college football prospect.
The attention that had long existed in the state increased on a national level with the Bleacher Report article during the summer. Still, Warp took it all in stride, focusing on what he could control.
“I never really felt pressured,” he said. “I just knew that I was going to play both as hard as I could play and have fun doing both. And then when the time came (to pick one), just whatever’s more fun.”
Warp enjoyed stellar senior seasons in both sports, but he excelled in basketball, helping guide the Blue Ponies to the Eastern A divisional championship and berth in the Class A state semifinals. Warp averaged 27 points per game during his final high school season and was named to USA Today’s Montana all-USA team along with fellow all-stars Brandon The Boy of Box Elder, Dylan Pannabecker and Derrek Durocher of Choteau, and Aaron Weidenaar of Bozeman, who was unable to compete in this weekend’s games.
“I didn’t know how easily he can get to the rim,” said Montana Western coach Steve Keller, who is leading the Montana all-stars for the fifth year. “We’re running the dribble-drive and he can really get to the rim. I think that he scored a lot of points (in high school) so he takes a lot of perimeter shots, but the thing that’s impressed me the most is how he can get to the rim and finish.”
Though his outside shot wasn’t falling, Warp demonstrated a wide array of scoring skills in Friday’s win, beating his defender off the dribble and attacking the basket. Saturday was a different story, as Warp sank four of Montana’s 15 3-point shots. It’s that type of ability that has Cunningham salivating about getting Warp on campus in Helena.
This weekend is just another stop on Warp’s path to joining the Fighting Saints.
“I never really looked at (the all-star series) as one last high school thing,” Warp said. “I just looked at it as another thing to prepare me for the next season in Helena. This just goes into working out and training and playing with some higher-caliber kids. That really helps. I felt like my high school season, that kind of ended (at the state tournament) in Missoula.”
With the weekend sweep, Montana has now won 10 consecutive games in the series with Wyoming, coinciding with Keller’s first year on the bench. Jerrod Four Colors, a Montana State University-Northern commit, finished with 18 points, wrapping up a solid weekend of play for the former Box Elder Bear.
Pannabecker added 16, including a 3-pointer during a crucial stretch that saw the Choteau trio of Pannabecker, Durocher and Collin Achenbach score 11 straight Montana points after Wyoming briefly took a 52-51 lead midway through the third quarter.
Montana’s all-stars outscored Wyoming 51-29 over the final 16 minutes. Much to the delight of the crowd, they hit the century mark on a Four Colors free throw.