MISSOULA — After leading the Missoula Big Sky Eagles to a third-place finish this past high school basketball season, standout Caden Bateman is now set to take a chance on himself and walk on for his hometown Montana Grizzlies.
It was a special season for the Eagles, who earned their first trophy since 1997, and Bateman was right there to help lead the charge.
"It was amazing. Looking back on it, I can tell you firmly divisionals and state were the best two weeks of my life," Bateman said. "It was getting to spend every day, every minute with your brother and going to battle with them and coming out knowing that no matter what was happening, everyone's got your back. In the end, I'm happy with how our season went."
Bateman's success on the court was a gradual progression.
He moved to Montana from the small town of Big Piney, Wyoming, before his freshman year, and as a sophomore broke his wrist after tryouts, which derailed that season.
But as a junior and senior, he found his rhythm as the Eagles found more wins, and advanced to the State AA tournament for the first time since 2016.
This week, Bateman now prepares to be one of the 10 boys players to represent the Treasure State in the annual Montana-Wyoming all-star basketball series, with games in Sheridan and Lockwood next weekend.
"Getting the opportunity to play for the all-star game is pretty cool to me," Bateman said. "It's something I've been working for all four years of high school. And only so many kids from all levels get to play in this game and it's quite an honor getting to be one of them."
After that, he'll shift his focus back to Missoula, as he'll get his opportunity at the Division I level with the Grizzlies.
"It was a no-brainer for me. I wanted to stay here and have the community of the Griz behind me," Bateman said. "Going to the games and seeing what the life of being a Grizzly is from a fan perspective, and now as a player, it's incredible. It's all in or nothing for this community and I love that."
And Bateman is ready to step up to the challenge and prove himself.
"I have to prove myself and I can tell you I have one of the strongest work ethics our of anyone just because I have dreams I want to secure," Bateman said. "I will do everything I can to make it work."