GREAT FALLS -- The Great Falls High boys are back on the court preparing for the upcoming basketball season. And after a disrupted summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re grateful for the opportunity.
“We’re pretty fortunate to be able to start,” said head coach Bob Howard. “There are a lot of states that aren't even considering playing winter sports. Hopefully we get a start and we keep going.”
And it’s shaping up to be a pivotal year for the Bison boys. Their postseason run was cut short in March after a semifinal loss against Billings Skyview when the State AA tournament was called off. But there’s reason to believe a return trip and a deep run at state is again in the works.
Great Falls High returns three senior starters who were the team’s top three scorers from a season ago. Drew Wyman (21.9 points per game), Levi Torgerson (15.9) and Tarel Rollins (6.9) will make the Bison one of the most dangerous teams in the state. Wyman led the state in scoring and rebounding a year ago and has spent the offseason playing an abridged AAU schedule against top competition in the region.
“We got three starters returning, which is huge for us, and we got some underclassmen stepping up, like sophomore Reed Harris, who I think is going to have a big impact this year,” Wyman said. “And I think our whole team in general is just going to be really strong, so I think we're going to do well on the boards this year. So that should help us. And I think we have a chance at a title.”
“People might think we overachieved last year a little bit, but we had a pretty solid core and we were very competitive day in and day out,” Howard said. “That's going to carry over. We have some guys that played a lot of basketball last year and some new kids coming up. So we're pretty happy, but there's a lot of good teams in the East.”
But the Bison also open the season with heavy hearts. Longtime assistant coach Ken Maddox passed away in November from complications with COVID-19. After over 40 years in the district, Maddox was Howard’s right-hand man and among the most impactful assistants in the state.
“Well, he basically is the Bison program. He was coaching in the Bison program, girls and guys, long before I got here,” Howard said. “And he’s just a great guy. And I mean, he'll never be replaced. He knew everybody, got along with everybody and was overall just a tremendous asset.”
And his memory will provide the Bison extra motivation.
“He was a devoted person. Like, everything he did was just trying to impact others in a positive way,” Rollins said. "So we can go out and give our all, because that's what he would have wanted and that's what he would have done because he gave his all to us. So I know we’re going to go the extra mile.”
Great Falls High opens the season on Tuesday, Jan. 5 against Belgrade.