CollegeMontana Grizzlies


Loyalty, drive define Josh Vazquez's 'rollercoaster' career with Montana Grizzlies

Josh Vazquez photo.jpg
Posted at 8:22 PM, Feb 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-13 22:32:47-05

MISSOULA — In the world of ever-changing landscapes in college athletics, players like Josh Vazquez of the Montana Grizzlies are a rarity.

Vazquez is a fifth-year senior at Montana, a university at which he's spent his entire career with numerous ups and downs along the way.

But he's never wavered and stayed committed to the program.

"I feel like even some years, you know, when it doesn't go good for you, you can't really just get up and leave," Vazquez said. "That's not how it goes in life. So you know, you have to be prepared for anything. Nothing's gonna come easy. I think everything happens for a reason, you know, all the ups and downs that I had here are gonna prepare me for what goes on in the life after basketball."

Vazquez's career at Montana started hot his freshman year in 2019-20 where he played right away and started in 14 games and averaged over 26 minutes per game.

His sophomore year saw a similar trajectory (25.3 MPG), before minutes fell drastically his junior year to around 10 per game. But Vazquez stuck to it, and has seen his role and time balloon back up over the past two years.

"I guess I've always labeled (my career) as like a rollercoaster ride," Vazquez said. "You don't necessarily know what's going to happen in college basketball, nothing's necessarily promised. You just have to be prepared, take opportunities when they come and just go from there. Put on your A-game and just give your all."

Montana's Josh Vazquez celebrates during the Brawl of the Wild meeting between the Montana Grizzlies and Montana State Bobcats at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024.

For Vazquez, it was all about mentality, and understanding college basketball has many twists and turns.

"Just know that you got to stay positive, there's a lot of stuff that's gonna hit you that you don't know what's coming and through all of it, even though you know, you're not the most happy about it or anything like that, you just have to stay positive know that this is what you signed up for," Vazquez said. "And this is what you got into."

Vazquez opted to use his extra COVID year to play a fifth season, and return to the only program he's ever known for one final run this year.

That decision has paid off as he's been back in the starting lineup, and is averaging career highs in scoring (8.6 points per game) and field goal percentage (45.8%). For his career, Vazquez has scored 861 points — including a number of clutch buckets over the years — plus he's grabbed 284 boards, dished 174 assists and also nabbed 119 steals.

"This year has actually been my most fun year so far," Vazquez said. "Because I'm a senior now, I gotta like put it all on the floor. I'm not getting none of these games back, but it's been really fun. There's always ups and downs, you win some you lose some, but it's for sure gonna be like my year of college I remember the most when I move on from this.

"The group that we have this year is kind of like really cohesive. They feel like a family. It's really like a feeling like no other that I felt before. Even like with some guys I've had in the past that I've been really close to, there's been a couple here and there. But like, this is like a group of 16 that really come together as a family."

And the most remarkable stat of his is a testament to his loyalty, and durability

In total, he's played in 144 games for the Griz, a program record that keeps climbing every time he steps on the court. Vazquez officially broke the record in his 135th game played back on Jan. 11 against Northern Colorado, as he surpassed former teammate Mack Anderson's mark of 134 games, as well as another former Grizzly in Bobby Moorehead who also appeared in 134 games for UM.

And as the final weeks of his career wind down, it's about cherishing them, while helping the Grizzlies to get back to the top of the Big Sky Conference come March.

"When you're here, you don't really, you know, realize that I'm here," Vazquez said. "When you're younger, I want to get there. And then when you finally get on the court and you take that deep breath in, you kind of look around, all the people are watching you play then that's like the moment that really hit me.

"It means a lot. It's for sure something I'm gonna take on, tell stories about when I'm older. It's a lifetime experience that you know, I'm gonna cherish forever."