(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)
BILLINGS, Mont. – The Montana State University Billings men’s basketball team got its first recruits of the 2022 class, as Dawson Community College guards Jalen and Jajuan Tot signed their national letters of intent on Thursday.
“Jalen and Jajuan are energy guys, winners and great teammates,” MSUB head coach Mick Durham, who is entering his fifth season at the helm of the MSUB program in 2022-23, said. “They had a really nice two-year run at Dawson and really developed under [DCC coach] Joe Peterson’s basketball program.”
Hailing from McKinney, Texas, the Tot twins helped guide Dawson Community College to a stellar 50-9 record over the past two seasons – including the program’s first-ever NJCAA Men’s Basketball Championship appearance in 2020-21. This past year, the Tot brothers were part of a Buccaneers squad that went 27-6, won their third-straight Region XIII men’s basketball title and reached the district championship game.
“It means a lot to me that they’re playing for a good coach and will play for a program that’s poised to make a big jump,” Dawson Community College head coach Joe Peterson said. “With all the guys MSUB has returning, Jajuan and Jalen will be two guys who will play really well with the returners. It’s extra special for me to see them stay in Montana because we can see them play more. A lot of people around the community are excited that they’re staying close to eastern Montana.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, both Jalen and Jajuan enter MSUB with three years of eligibility remaining. With starting guard and MSUB’s second-leading scorer Damen Thacker graduating, the Tots will help bolster MSUB’s backcourt for the next few years.
“We needed to add some perimeter guys due to Damen Thacker and Brent Finn graduating,” Durham said. “Jajuan will help us at the point guard spot, while Jalen is more of a combo guard.”
The brothers are listed at 6-feet-tall and have a knack for stuffing the stat sheet. Jalen Tot was a second-team All-Mon-Dak Athletic Conference selection this past year, averaging 10.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.2 steals per game. Jajuan averaged 9.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.9 steals while starting in 32 of the team’s 33 games. As a freshman, Jajuan was a second team all-conference selection after averaging 8.8 points per game and leading the team with 1.7 steals per game.
“They understand the game and they do whatever it takes to make the team successful,” Peterson said of the Tot brothers. “They’re very well-rounded and they do a little bit of everything. They’re both used to winning — they won in high school and they helped us make it to the national championships during their first year here.”
According to Peterson, Jajuan is a stocky, even-keeled point guard – both on and off the floor. On the other hand, Jalen is the more emotional, energetic of the two brothers; Peterson he has an attack-first mindset on both offense and defense, whether it’s in open gym, practices or in games. Yet despite their differences in personalities, Peterson says both brothers rise to the occasion and thrive off competition.
“The first moment that stands out about Jalen’s career is when he made four threes that kept us in the game against a really, really good [Indian Hills Community College] team at nationals,” Peterson said. “A lot of our guys weren’t really playing as well as they normally did, but Jalen stepped up in the spotlight and helped keep us in it. And for Jajuan, the times he’s gone up against Division I-type prospects are the times he’s had his biggest games.”
“They aren’t afraid of the moment, that’s for sure,” Peterson added.
Defensively, Jalen and Jajuan were DCC’s leaders in steals last season, as Jalen led the team with 69 steals and Jajuan was close behind with 61. Peterson calls Jajuan a solid defender who has a knack for good positioning, while Jalen is a more aggressive defender who is prone to gambling for steals. Nevertheless, Jalen and Jajuan gave the Buccaneers two of the Mon-Dak’s top five leaders in steals, as Jalen ranked second at 2.2 steals per game, while Jajuan ranked fourth with 1.9 per contest.
To say that basketball runs in the Tot family would be an understatement. Their mother, Helen Darling, was the 2000 Big Ten Player of the Year and led the Penn State Nittany Lions to the 2000 Final Four before playing in the WNBA for 10 years. Additionally, the brothers are part of a set of triplets. Their sister, Nevaeh Tot, plays basketball for the University of Oklahoma.
Prior to Dawson Community College, Jalen and Jajuan prepped at John Paul II High School, located in Plano, Texas. As seniors in 2019-20, the Tots led the Cardinals to a 40-1 record and a 6A TAPPS State Championship.
The Yellowjackets are coming off a 13-15 season – including a 9-8 record in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play – in which they finished fourth in the conference. MSUB is expected to bring back four of its five starters for Durham’s fifth season.