GREAT FALLS — Two years ago, Jaxen Hashley walked off the basketball court at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls with a State AA championship, content that he might never play competitive basketball again.
At the time, Hashley was a Montana State football commit. He spent a redshirt year at Montana State, but Hashley comes from a basketball family, and the hardwood was never far from his mind. In April, the Kalispell Glacier High School product transferred to the University of Providence. He was new coach Steve Keller’s first big in-state recruit and is starting at center for the Argos.
“I started playing basketball before I started playing football, but MSU was the path that I took and I’m glad I took it,” Hashley said. “I made a lot of friends and I still talk to (MSU) coach (Jeff) Choate sometimes. I’m thankful I got to play football, but I’m glad I’m back playing basketball again, for sure.”
There were a lot of ups and downs between his last high school basketball game and his first start at Providence. Let’s start with the downs: Hashley tore his ACL during his senior basketball season at Glacier.
“I tore it halfway through the season and then I finished the year. Kind of just forgot about it, honestly,” Hashley recalled. “During the Montana-Wyoming all-star game, I went to go get a bag of ice and the trainer at (Rocky Mountain College) looked at me, shook his head, and said, ‘That ain’t right.’ So I was like, ‘Ok, what’s the next step?’ It was get surgery about two days later.”
Then came the ups: rehab and a fresh start at Montana State.
“The MSU coaches handled it great, they were really supportive of me,” Hashley said. “I came in, went to rehab, they took great care of me. They started getting me up in weight to play defensive line. But I didn’t feel like I was doing what I absolutely loved.”
Hashley was a big part of the Cats’ future, but his love for basketball and the toll football would take on his knee caused him to question his future plans. Eventually he medically retired from football and started looking for a new challenge.
“I had a couple talks with coaches and they said, ‘If you don’t truly love it, then it’s probably not the right thing,’” he said. “And I truly love basketball. I called my dad and he started talking to some of the Frontier coaches and ended up here, and I’m glad I’m here.”
It helped that his dad, Doug, a Hall of Fame center at Montana State, had taken the job as the assistant athletic director at Providence. And Keller, his coach on the Montana-Wyoming all-star team, had recently left Montana Western in Dillon for Great Falls.
“I was between here and a few other Frontier schools,” Hashley said. “I probably would have ended up going to Western with Keller, but ended up here and I get to work with the best coach I’ll ever have. And my family is here, I don’t know how I could beat that.”
But as Jaxen quickly learned, football shape and basketball shape are two completely different things.
“It was rough,” he laughed about the first few weeks back on the court. “I came in, just screwing around and playing some open gyms, and I was 270 pounds, and I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is the right decision.’ But getting back into it, Keller has been taking really good care of me. Still nowhere close, I’d say, but it’s exciting.”
He might be closer than he lets on. Hashley is averaging 10.5 points and 10.5 rebounds through the first two games of the season. He still wears a knee brace but mostly for peace of mind. His coach knows he’ll only get better as he works back into shape.
“We are going to have the best center in the league — of not this year, then the next three years,” Keller said. “He can post up, he can score inside, but his best attribute is he’s a great passer. He knows who shoots it and he knows when to kick it out — just a smart, intelligent basketball player for a freshman.”
Hashley is a proud Argo, but you’ll have to forgive him if his allegiance changes when the Providence women’s basketball team faces Frontier Conference foe Carroll College. After a year off, Hashley’s older sister Cassidy, an all-American post, is back with the Saints.
“Just the other day, I was eating lunch with (Argo forward) Parker (Esary) and I said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m going to have to root for my sister. I hope you guys do good, but family first,'” Jaxen said. “I’m super excited for her. She’s so excited, my dad says she’s in great shape. I’m excited to watch her.”
Hashley and the Argos are 2-0 on the season and return to the court Nov. 2 on the road at Salish Kootenai.