MISSOULA -- Sayeed Pridgett is a bit of a rarity in college basketball nowadays.
A star in high school in Oakland, California, Pridgett was not handed big minutes right away in college at Montana. But rather than up and leave as is common in today's college basketball world, he waited for his turn to be the guy and has incrementally worked his way up the ladder from role player, to sixth man, to starter, to star.
“It’s rare," Montana coach Travis DeCuire said. "And we should be grateful for guys like him and Mike Oguine and Bobby Moorehead that, en route to championships, stay and give you four complete years of their career because it just doesn’t exist anymore.”
“My progression means a lot because just knowing that I was able to just stick through it through all the roles even though some guys probably wouldn’t like the roles that I’ve been in," Pridgett added. "And just following the process and trusting what coach had for me and the work.”
Pridgett was named to the all-conference first team for the second straight year on Tuesday after what has been a year that was among the league's best. Pridgett averaged 19.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.5 steals this season. He also shot 51.1 percent from the field.
He's the only player in the Big Sky Conference who ranks in the top six in all of those statistical categories. Pushing through those challenges of playing time and staying patient have made it all the more sweet for the senior, as well.
“It was very hard because sometimes I felt like I could’ve done a lot more, because I had a lot of games where I was doing a lot for the team, and sometimes I have to take a backseat role to my teammates that were obviously here before me," Pridgett said. "So just knowing that I can help and just knowing that it wasn’t my time to do that yet, it was hard to hold myself back.”
Pridgett burst onto the scene as a first-team all-conference player last season as Montana made its second straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. This year, he’s turned into an all-time great in a Griz jersey. After Saturday’s regular-season finale against Southern Utah, Pridgett moved into fourth all-time on Montana’s scoring list and currently has 1,679 career points. Bob Cope is third with 1,810.
Pridgett's career has been one stepping stone after another to this point. Now, it's win or go home as Pridgett and the Montana Grizzlies begin their quest for a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance when Montana takes on Idaho State in Thursday's quarterfinal round of the Big Sky Conference tournament. If the Griz do just that, it'll be the first time in school history they would make it in three straight seasons.
And for Pridgett, it's all about enjoying his final days as UM’s senior leader on the basketball court.
“It hit me probably about a week ago," Pridgett said. "A lot of people have been talking to me about how does it feel to be a senior and how did it feel about Senior Night, so just knowing that it’s here is kind of an emotional time for me. Just being able to vibe with my teammates just knowing that these guys will be in my life forever. Like I was always told, you’ll meet some of your best friends in college and I feel like that’s what I’ve done.”