(Editor's note: Montana State University athletics release)
BOZEMAN -- The Montana State men's basketball team received two National Letters of Intent on the opening day of the regular signing period on Wednesday, April 15. Head coach Danny Sprinkle announced the additions of Nick Gazelas and Bilal Shabazz to the program.
Gazelas is a 6-foot-4 guard originally from Humble, Texas. Shabazz is a 6-foot-8 forward from Milwaukee, Wis. Gazelas will be a sophomore and Shabazz a junior for the Bobcats going into the 2020-21 season.
"We're going to get those two up here as soon as we possibly can," said Sprinkle. "It's definitely been a challenge because of everything we've had to do virtually, but these two were all in. We were able to sell the vision of the program and I think Nick and Bilal will be great guys to add to what we're building here."
Gazelas played one season at Jacksonville College, a private junior college in Jacksonville, Texas. In his lone season with the Jaguars, Gazelas earned All-Region XIV South Zone First Team accolades. He averaged 17.4 points per game, 2.8 rebounds and shot 43.2% from the field, including a 38.5% clip from 3-point range.
A starter in 24 of the 28 games he played for Jacksonville College, Gazelas finished the season as the team's leading scorer and was second on the team playing in 31.2 minutes per game. He was a double-digit scorer in all but three games and scored over 20 in 10 contests. He registered a career-high 30 points in a game at the start of the 2020 calendar year. He had highs of seven rebounds and six assists in games.
Gazelas is a 2019 graduate of Atascocita High School in Humble, Texas. He earned TABC Class 6A all-region team honors as a senior and earned Texas Invitational All-Tournament honors as a junior for the Eagles.
"Nick is a really talented scorer," Sprinkle said. "He can really shoot the basketball which we definitely wanted to address in our recruiting. His shooting and his toughness really stood out. He played in one of the best junior college leagues in the country and he was named first team all-region. That is a heck of an accomplishment for a freshman. He played in one of the most athletic junior college leagues in the country which will help him adapt to the Division I level and the Big Sky Conference.
"Our whole staff did a really good job of evaluating him and tracking him early. His junior college coach, Louis Truscott, did a really good job with him this year. His high school, David Martinez, is one of the best high school coaches in Texas. He's very well respected and he spoke very highly of Nick."
Shabazz spent the previous two seasons at Trinidad State Junior College in Colorado. Shabazz was a two-year contributor to the Trojans' program. As a freshman, Shabazz averaged team highs in points per game (12.3), rebounds (7.6) and blocks (1.7). He shot over 45% from the field and over 82% from the free throw line.
He continued to be relied upon as a sophomore. He averaged 12.3 points for a second consecutive year and grabbed 6.1 boards per contest. His 3-point shooting remained over 37% for back-to-back years and totaled 140 3-pointers. He led Trinidad State with 357 points as a sophomore and averaged 1.3 blocks. He completed a combined 38 double-digit scoring performances and 13 double-digit rebounding efforts with the Trojans. He had a career-high 34-point scoring outburst in January.
Shabazz attended Pius XI Catholic High School in Milwaukee prior to Trinidad State. He was a double-digit average scorer in consecutive years at Pius XI.
"Bilal has a tremendous upside," Sprinkle said. "If we're fortunate enough to get him here this summer, it could do wonders for his game. He's a really talented shooter. He's 6-8 and really long and athletic. I think he's just at that stage of development where he's really about to take off to the next level.
"The weight room is going to be critical for him. He had a really good two years at the junior college level at Trinidad with coach Mike Folda. He made 140 3-pointers over two years, which at his size will really add another dimension to go along with Borja (Fernandez) at the 4-spot. The way we want to play, he can be a critical piece to our success next year."
The Bobcats are currently set to have four newcomers join the program heading into the 2020-21 season. Mike Hood and Tyler Patterson previously signed with the Montana State men's basketball team during the early period that ran from Nov. 13-20, 2019.