MISSOULA — For the past few years when someone mentioned the Missoula Hellgate boys basketball team, one would tend to think of Rollie Worster.
Worster ended his high school career with a number of records, at Class AA state title and two Montana Gatorade player of the year awards.
This season will be the first for the Knights since Worster graduated as well as two other starters in Abe Johnson and Cam LaRance.
“(Worster) took care of the burden of handling the pressure, getting us organized," said Hellgate head coach Jeff Hays. "It is a new challenge, it’s something where I have to think a little bit more instead of just saying, 'Get the ball to Rollie and things will work out.'”
While the Knights lost those three role players, they still bring back two starters from last season in seniors Josh Wade and Beckett Arthur.
“It’s definitely some big shoes to fill from last year, but I think it’s definitely giving me the opportunity to step up," Arthur said. "I’ve actually been having a lot more fun because I’ve had more freedom to go do things that I normally wouldn’t do. I think I’ve grown as a player for sure.”
“They just kind of showed us, like Rollie, Abe, and Cam and all the rest, how they just brought it every day," said Wade. "Me and Beckett kind of saw that and we just kind of embraced that and we’re trying to do the same for this year."
Arthur is also a familiar name in high school sports but mostly on the pitch, as he played a big part in three state titles for the Knights' soccer team.
While the soccer season is over, Arthur is taking some lessons from the field to the court.
"Playing soccer, there was always that scare before games, like this could be our last game," said Arthur. "And the competitive side of it, playing soccer first just helps me go into (basketball) games confident in myself and the team. With COVID-19 and everything, playing super hard in practice like we did in soccer because this next game that we're playing, who knows what could happen after that."
While the Knights feel good about their roster, they still haven’t seen any real competition for 10 months now. Hays knows the first few weeks could be tough but he still has confidence, and expectations remain high for this program.
“I feel good about this group, there’s a lot of potential and we just need time and hopefully we have some uninterrupted time here over the next couple of months before that,” said Hays. "We are not going to lower expectations for how we play. There are some non-negotiables for us: Playing hard, you can control that, playing with the appropriate attitude and team spirit."
Hellgate has its first test of the season Thursday night at home against the Helena High Bengals. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.