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'Unique' Josiah Cuaresma leads Missoula Big Sky Eagles after patience, work ethic pay off

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Posted at 3:03 PM, Feb 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-26 17:03:36-05

MISSOULA — Josiah Cuaresma has been a standout on the court this season for the Missoula Big Sky Eagles.

But it never came easy for the senior, who had to wait his turn to take center stage.

"I just kept working," Cuaresma said. "I think that I got blessed because there were some people that had faith in me and kept going with me, so combined with (Big Sky head coach Zach Murphy) and all of the coaches that came over, I tried to put in my work and they trusted me to do my thing and it all worked out for the best."

It was a steady climb for Cuaresma, who entered high school at about 5-foot-4, but experienced a growth spurt after his freshman year, and he now stands at 6-3.

An athletic guard, Cuaresma played a key role in Big Sky taking third at State AA last year, as he got used to his body and abilities as a player who could do whatever necessary on both ends of the floor for the Eagles.

"I was at an awkward phase, and so I think my junior year is when it started to click between like working hard, the skills that I had before and then the growth spurt they all just came together and it just kind of worked out that way," he said.

But after all of those seniors graduated from last year's run, it was his turn to take the reins of the program under Murphy.

There were growing pains, but Cuaresma has embraced his role as a leader and the go-to guy when Big Sky needs.

"I knew there was going to be mistakes, and I just try to keep going," Cuaresma said. "I think I know that I have to score a little bit more, take a little bit more shots and I'm going to always be a team guy and try and get my players involved, but I know that some of the shots I have is the best shot available and I have to just keep shooting those."

"Josiah is such a unique kid and such a special talent," added Murphy, Big Sky's first-year head coach. "He's very cerebral, and he's got questions, and he wants to know why something is happening, but it's always because he wants to know why is this going to work out in the end, and then he takes it and he goes out on the floor and he executes it.

"I can approach him with every single coaching style and he's willing to embrace that and I think it's what makes him such a talented kid and why I feel so unbelievably fortunate to be able to coach him."

He's been a patient athlete in his basketball career, knowing that eventually, his time would come.

"Working hard when you know the opportunity is not quite there, but you can still keep going to get that opportunity," Cuaresma said. "I just trust the process. I knew that I was working too hard for it to not work out in the end and I just kept going."

Big Sky is in the middle of the pack in the Western AA standings as they get set for the divisional in Kalispell this coming week. They concluded the season 8-10 overall and 7-7 in conference play.

They've had their ups and downs and have shown they can hang with some of the top teams, but now, the Eagles have their opportunity to show what they've been working for as they pursue the state tournament for the second straight year.

"I knew that as soon as we left state last year with a third place, everyone thought it was just going to be a one and done where we had success and we were just going to be back to where we were," Cuaresma said. "I think that's been our mindset going into this season is we just keep proving that we have what it takes and we want to keep building something."