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#MTTop50: Montana’s best basketball players, by decade

Posted at 1:43 PM, May 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-09 15:43:45-04

(Editor's note: While we're faced with a sports-less world during the coronavirus pandemic, MTN Sports is going to re-publish the original stories from the #MTTop50, which launched in 2016 to profile some of the great boys basketball players in Montana history. Our intention is not to revise history, so we're not going to change the order in which the players were featured. However, some articles will include updates to reflect the latest developments in a player's career. This story was originally published on July 25, 2016.)

The #MTTop50, MTN Sports’ look at some of the best boys basketball players in Montana history, has finally reached the top 20. Before beginning the countdown of the best players regardless of era, though, here’s one last quick overview of everybody featured up until this point.

MTN Sports began profiling players by decade back on June 13, spending one week on each decade. The series started with an active high school player – reigning Gatorade Player of the Year Brendan Howard of Great Falls High – to kick off the 2010s.

We moved through time featuring the 2000s, 1990s, 1980s, 1970s and the 1960s, ‘50s and earlier last week.

Mike Welton, Willie Weeks, Jack O’Connor, Kermit Young and George Yellow Eyes were some of the best players from the era. Here’s a quick recap of each, plus a look at some of the honorable mentions.

Mike Welton, Billings West – Welton was a three-time all-state selection at West and is still the Golden Bears’ all-time leading scorer. He played both baseball and basketball at the University of Arizona, where he was a three-year letter-winner.

Willie Weeks, Wolf Point – Weeks helped lead the Wolves to the 1968 Big 32 state championship. He continued his career at Montana State, earning all-conference honors and averaging 18.1 points per game during his career.

Jack O’Connor, Baker – O’Connor is second on Baker’s career scoring list and owns two of the top three single-seasons scoring marks. He played at the College of Great Falls (now the University of Great Falls) and is the program’s all-time leader in both points and rebounds.

Kermit Young, Fairfield – Young was an all-around athlete at Fairfield and helped lead the Eagles to the 1959 state championship as an all-state center. He played collegiately at Montana State, and is one of only two players in program history to average a double-double over his entire career.

George Yellow Eyes, Miles City State School – The shortest player in the #MTTop50, Yellow Eyes stood only 5-foot-7 but was known for his outside shooting and quickness. He was a two-time all-state selection and averaged better than 23 points per game.

Honorable mentions: Floyd GrossGuns, Browning; Bob Hasquet, Shelby; Darrell Hill, Hardin; Ray Howard, Great Falls; Bob Jensen, Sidney; Dean Kratovil, Billings West; Ray Kuka, Havre; Don Miller, Gildford; Gary Peck, Libby; Russ Powers, Billings (Senior); Marc Racicot, Libby; Glen Smiley, Bozeman; Jim Soft, Richey; Paul Strong, St. Leo’s; Ed Yeo, Butte.

The countdown of the best players in state history begins with the most prolific scorer in the Montana High School Association record books, Reece Gliko of Highwood and Belt. Before turning our full attention to the countdown, here are the 25 other players, separated by decade, profiled in the #MTTop50. Stay tuned for more on Gliko.

1970s – Allan Nielsen, Westby; Steve Keller, Custer; Les Craft, Bozeman; Craig Finberg, Columbia Falls; Blaine Taylor, Missoula Hellgate. Honorable mentions: Mick Durham, Three Forks; Rick Goodman, Belt; Gary Michael, Park City; Rocky Tollefson, Saco; Duane Walker, Malta.

1980s – Bill Dreikosen, Hinsdale; Gary CrossGuns, Browning; Scott Zanon, Kalispell (Flathead); Gary Kane, Butte; Roger Fasting, Glendive. Honorable mention: Shane Lorash, Reed Point; Scott Ferguson, Butte; Scott Hurley, Anaconda; Wally Doney, Pine Hills; Luke Spotted Bear, Plenty Coups.

1990s – Danny Sprinkle, Helena; Scott Hatler, Great Falls; Matt Garrison, Billings Senior; Mat Seidensticker, Shelby; Kirk Walker, Darby. Honorable mention: Pete Conway, Billings West; Shane Gamradt, Fairfield; Scott Henderson, Box Elder; Matt Kempfert, Missoula Hellgate; John Lazosky, Billings West; Adam Leachman, Bozeman; Chris Spoja, Helena High; Travis Walker, Plentywood.

2000s – Bobby Howard, Great Falls; Andy Garland, Missoula Sentinel; Casey Rogers, Billings West; Kevin Criswell, Colstrip; Nick Dissly, Bozeman. Honorable mention: Jordan Hasquet, Missoula Sentinel; Justin Hartman, Great Falls CMR; Matt Luedtke, Ronan; Eric Henkel, Missoula Sentinel; John Seyfert, Stevensville.

2010s – Brendan Howard, Great Falls; Dane Warp, Havre; Brandon The Boy, Box Elder; Kendal Manuel, Billings Skyview; Tanner Roderick, Bozeman. Honorable mentions: Riley Bradshaw, Corvallis, Kendall Denham, Malta, Daine Muller, Billings Skyview, Cooper Olson, Westby-Grenora, Danny Robison, Billings West.