GREAT FALLS – The defending Class AA state champion Great Falls CMR boys basketball team has returned to the floor preparing for the new season. Four of the starting five from last year have graduated, but the Rustlers do have familiar faces returning this year that have logged key minutes in the past.
To go along with starter Bryce Depping, Caleb Currington, Russel Gagne and Tucker Greenwell are all back. That familiarity will look to go a long way.
“Last year it was a family, it was a team. This year we’re a lot of the same. We’ve all been playing together. Caleb came in last year, and he’s just jumped right in, he’s helped a lot,” said Gagne, a senior. “I think just being a family on this team is going to help us through with losing those four starters. They were some of our top scorers, but I think we can come back with that as a family and work through it.”
While CMR looks to avoid a dropoff this season, the Rustlers are still the defending champions, and that puts a bullseye on the school to the rest of Class AA. This team believes as long as that winning focus is still there, that pressure won’t be a problem.
“We just have to keep the same mindset as last year: be aggressive every time, be disciplined and just talk and communicate,” said Currington, a senior. “I think that was the key piece from last year, we just talked and played aggressive on defense.”
“Every game, every week we have to go out and get better every week. We did a great job of that last year, every week we just got better. If we can have that same mentality and same intensity — we’ve had that so far for the first week — but once we get to January, February, where it kind of drags, if our kids can maintain that, keep working and get better, then they’ll have an opportunity at the end of the year,” said head coach John Cislo.
What this Rustlers team will have this year with the 6-foot-3 Depping and 6-4 Gagne returning is a heavy presence around the rim, which enables for better man-on-man defense. As for everything else? CMR begins to work on ironing it out.
“I think we’ll get out and run more this year than we did last year,” said Depping, a senior. “Last year’s team was probably better in the half court — we might struggle a little in that this year, but that’s why we’re here working on this on Fridays right now.”
CMR will begin the season at home against Kalispell Glacier on Dec. 7.