BOZEMAN — The Montana State men's basketball team is just a few short weeks away playing at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. On Thursday afternoon MSU head coach Danny Sprinkle and forward Jubrile Belo spoke at the Big Sky Conference digital media day.
With a fifth-place finish in the Big Sky last year and a difficult offseason because of COVID-19, the Bobcats will have to click quickly if they want to have success with eight new players.
“We’re going to have to make up for lost time, and when we do get that time on the court, when we do get that time in the weight room, we got to make the most of it. When we get the time doing conditioning, we have to make the most of it," said Sprinkle, the Bobcats' second-year head coach. "I think the teams that do that and stick together, I think those are the ones that are going to be successful at the end of the season.”
With the loss of star guard Harald Frey, who is now playing professionally in Spain, players like Belo, Devin Kirby, Amin Adamu and Xavier Bishop have stepped in to fill that leadership role.
“The way they saw Harald handled each day, I can see a lot of Harald rubbed off on those guys," said Sprinkle. "They’re taking ownership of the team and the program. I thought they’ve done a tremendous job thus far in that aspect.”
Belo was named to the Big Sky preseason all-conference team. The junior was named Big Sky newcomer of the year last year, and he said his game has improved significantly over the offseason.
“It’s everything -- my shooting, my IQ’s improved, really everything -- defense and offense,” Belo said.
“Jubrile’s one of the quickest learners I've coached," Sprinkle said. "He kind of burst onto the scene and was so successful teams had to game plan for him."
Belo's game has improved, but as he continues to get better, he makes the Cats that much more lethal.
"He can make the game easier for every one of his teammates," said Sprinkle. "I think he’s that good and he’s that talented of a passer, scorer, he can handle the ball, he can really shoot the ball, he’s a great free throw shooter. He does multiple things, he can really impact our program and impact our teammates."
As for the conference, Sprinkle knows that competition just gets better every year.
“I really think this league’s getting better and better," said Sprinkle. "I think the tremendous job coaching, not just X’s- and O’s-wise, but I think the recruiting has ramped up in this league. I’m expecting for it to be even better this year.”
Montana State has yet to announce its non-conference schedule, but director of athletics Leon Costello has said no fans will be in the stands once the season opens because of COVID-19 cases in Gallatin County.