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Meet the 2019 Little Sullivan Award finalists: Jayse McLean

Posted: 1:59 PM, Apr 21, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-04 02:39:02-04
Former Great Falls CMR and Great Falls Chargers’ athlete Jayse McLean is in his senior season at North Dakota State. (Mark Kuhlmann photo. Courtesy: NDSU athletics)

Jayse McLean has always been intelligent, always well above the average mark for his age. Just ask his former high school basketball coach John Cislo.

“When I kind of realized that he was a little bit different, a bright kid, when he was a little kid and (his dad) Mike was the (head boys basketball coach at Great Falls CMR), I remember one day he came up and said, he called me ‘Cis,’ and he said, ‘Hey Cis, I can count to 1,000. Want to hear me?’ I’m thinking, ‘OK, sure.’ He counted to 1,000 for me,” laughed Cislo. “His dad was like, ‘Leave him alone,’ while I’m just giggling. His dad, I think, made him stop around 200 (but he would have kept counting).”

It’s no surprise, then, that McLean is currently chasing down a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at North Dakota State University after graduating Summa Cum Laude with a 4.0 GPA.

It should also come as no surprise that the academic accolades have poured in during McLean’s five years in Fargo.

Summit League academic honor roll.

First-team academic all-Summit League.

Commissioner’s list of academic excellence.

And those are just the local honors.

McLean was named first-team Google Cloud Academic all-American in 2018, and this spring was one of 30 NCAA student-athletes on the baseball diamonds named finalists for the 2019 Senior CLASS Award, which recognizes efforts in four categories — community, classroom, character and competition.

“He’s always done that. His mom is a great science teacher and really pushed that on him, so did his dad with mathematics, and being a teacher’s kid it was, ‘Do your homework, then work on your game,’ and he did a lot of that,” said Cislo.

McLean’s prowess in the classrooms has been incredible, but his successes in athletics have mirrored it. A former standout football and basketball player at Great Falls CMR, where he was voted team MVP in each sport, McLean followed in his family’s baseball footsteps, shining for the Great Falls Chargers.

A three-year starter and two-year letter winner, McLean hit .410 as a junior, then .393 his senior season, with 20 doubles, nine triples and five home runs on his way to first-team all-state and Chargers’ MVP accolades.

“Jayse was a kid that always, it might have been baseball season, but he would come in and get his shots up for basketball, he would go throw the ball with his dad, go throw a football a little bit, and of course, during basketball season he would be hitting in the cages for the Chargers,” said Cislo. “He’s just a kid that’s always had something going on when he was in high school. Just a hard-working kid that liked to play sports.”

McLean’s well-rounded talents caught the attention of college coaches in all three sports, but it was NDSU and baseball that won out. McLean played immediately, seeing action in nearly 60 games his first two seasons, tallying 13 RBI and posting a perfect fielding percentage his sophomore year in 2016, recording 53 put outs for the Bison defense.

“He picks things up quick. He’s just a really talented kid, academically and athletically, so I think sports is kind of a second nature. But he’s also in the gym all the time. Dad would bring him to the gym so he could lift, shoot, throw a football, throw a baseball. He’s always had those opportunities,” said Cislo. “The McLean family is a great baseball family from back up in the Plentywood days, so he’s been exposed to it so much it all became second nature to him.”

After sitting out the 2017 campaign with a knee injury, McLean bounced back with an all-conference season in 2018, starting 50 games and hitting .250 with 44 hits, 31 RBI and seven home runs. He landed on base nearly 37 percent of the time and stole eight bases, while scoring 40 runs. McLean also totaled his single-season career high with 109 put outs.

Despite a slow start to the 2019 season, McLean has 10 hits in his last six games with eight RBI while nearly quadrupling his batting average.

McLean has also continued his baseball career after the NDSU seasons end, playing sumer ball in Alberta for fellow former CMR athlete Tyler Graham. He spent last summer with the Madison Mallards in the Northwoods League, a collegiate wood bat league.

One of four male finalists for the Montana Amateur Athletic Union 2019 Little Sullivan Award, McLean has found success in every walk of life at every level, something Cislo sees continuing well beyond his playing days.

“I think he’ll succeed. He’ll do well. He’ll go off and do great things in the engineering field,” he said. “I would like to see him get into some kind of coaching, I don’t care if it’s youth coaching, whether it be football, basketball or baseball, but I think he has a great mind to do just about anything he wants because he will put the time and effort into it. It’s second nature.”

The 2019 Montana AAU Little Sullivan banquet will be held Saturday, May 4 at the Red Lion Hotel in Billings. Tickets to the event are available until May 1 and can be purchased by emailing mtaau.reg@gmail.com or by calling (406) 489-0251.

All current card-holding adult Montana AAU members, plus Montana media representatives, are eligible to vote for this year’s winners by emailing selections to mtaau.reg@gmail.com by Monday, April 22.

Montana AAU Little Sullivan Award 2019 finalists

Female finalists

Alisha Breen — Choteau, MSU Billings basketball
Hailey Copinga — Billings Skyview, Rocky Mountain College volleyball
Makena Morley — Bigfork, University of Colorado cross country and track and field
Sydney Stites — Bozeman, Iowa State University softball

Male finalists

Jayse McLean — Great Falls CMR, North Dakota State University baseball
Tres Tinkle — Missoula Hellgate, Oregon State basketball
Brandon Weber — Forsyth, MSU-Northern wrestling
Tucker Yates — Colstrip, Montana State University football