(Editor’s note: story by Griz communications)
MISSOULA – The Montana men’s basketball coaching staff is settling in nicely to the state of California. Four of Montana’s top rotation players hail from the Golden State, in addition to class of 2018 signee Eddy Egun. They’ll be joined by a trio of other California natives, who all signed their National Letters of Intent to play for the Grizzlies this week.
Derrick (D.J.) Carter-Hollinger, Kyle Owens and Josh Vazquez – all from the state of California – will suit up for the Grizzlies beginning in 2019-20.
“I wanted bigger, more athletic wings and a pure point guard. We got that, no question,” head coach Travis DeCuire said. “They are three guys we’ve been recruiting for a long time. We’ve spent a lot of time with them and have invested in.”
The location wasn’t a particular focus, although the state is a recruiting hotbed, both for the Griz and college basketball nationally. It also doesn’t hurt that assistant coaches Chris Cobb (Castro Valley) and Jay Flores (Sacramento) are from the state, while DeCuire spent six seasons as the top assistant at Cal.
More than the location was the type of players Montana was getting. DeCuire knew what he wanted, and he and his staff went and got it.
“We got our top three guys,” DeCuire said. “We’re really excited about how it all worked out.”
DERRICK (D.J.) CARTER-HOLLINGER
Hometown: El Cajon, Calif., outside of San Diego
High School: Foothills Christian H.S.
AAU: Oakland Soldiers
Averaged a double-double as a junior in 2017-18, posting 20.3 points and 10.2 rebounds per game… Also added 1.3 blocked shots and 1.3 assists per game… Earned first-team all-league honors… Helped his school to the San Diego Section championship game of the Open Division – the top classification in the state – and state tournament… Was invited to participate in the 2018 under-17 Nike Elite Youth Basketball League… Visited campus in September and announced his commitment that weekend… Chose Montana over a reported offer from UC Riverside… Played on the same AAU team as current and former Grizzlies Timmy Falls, Will Cherry and Mario Dunn… Earned academic all-league honors as well… Is just 16 years old.
DeCuire on Carter-Hollinger: “He has incredible upside. He has the ability to defend multiple positions, he’s a versatile wing and an amazing rebounder. He’s a guy who can contribute for us right away.”
Hometown: Calabasas, Calif., near Los Angeles
High School: Crespi Carmelite H.S.
Averaged 13.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.3 assists as a junior in 2017-18… Has played all five positions on the court… His high school won a state championship as a freshman in 2015-16, competing at the Division I classification, the second-highest in the state… Went 12-0 in league play as a junior… Was offered a scholarship in May and visited campus in September… Committed to Montana over reported offers from UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, CSUN, Denver, Grand Canyon, Hofstra, Hawaii and Loyola Marymount… Played against current Griz Eddy Egun.
DeCuire on Owens: “He’s a phenomenal young man, who comes from a strong academic background. On the court, he has a lot of versatility, which is what we were looking for in our two wings. He can defend 1 through 5, he rebounds the ball very well and he’s very versatile offensively.”
Position: Point Guard
Hometown: Torrance, Calif., near Los Angeles
High School: Bishop Montgomery H.S.
Averaged more than 15 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals per game as a junior in 2017-18… Earned first-team All-Del Rey League and second-team all-state honors… Has helped his high school to three consecutive top-eight finishes in the Open Division – California’s premier classification – including a state championship in 2017… Last season, Bishop Montgomery went 31-2 and was ranked No. 1 in the state of California and No. 3 nationally by MaxPreps… Announced his commitment in June and visited campus in September… Committed to Montana over reported offers from UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and Northern Arizona.
DeCuire on Vazquez: “He’s probably as pure as any high-school point guard that I’ve had the chance to recruit. We’re excited that we’re surrounding him with a ton of talent, and I think he’s a guy who can come in and threaten those assists records.”
Montana will have at least one scholarship still to fill, but instead of rushing into it, DeCuire is taking a wait-and-see approaching.
“It has to be the right fit,” DeCuire said. “In a perfect world it would be someone we’ve been recruiting for a while, who we know and we know fits well with our program. We still aren’t sure exactly what we’ll need most, so we’ll sit back and see what happens.”
A year ago, Montana signed one player in November before adding three prep stars and two transfers from April through May. Montana opened the 2018-19 season last week with back-to-back home victories. The Grizzlies are unanimous favorites to repeat as Big Sky champions after going 26-8 and advancing to the NCAA tournament a year ago.