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Montana State men's basketball adds Mareng Gatkuoth, Isaac Spears

Montana State men's basketball adds Mareng Gatkuoth, Isaac Spears

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Montana State men's basketball vs. UNLV (copy)

Montana State coach Danny Sprinkle speaks during a timeout in the season opener against UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center on Nov. 25 in Las Vegas.

BOZEMAN — Mareng Gatkuoth and Isaac Spears have signed their letters of intent with the Montana State men's basketball team.

Gatkuoth is a native of Anchorage, Alaska, who spent last season at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas. Spears most recently attended Bella Vista College Preparatory School in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Gatkuoth played two seasons of NJCAA Division I basketball before signing with Montana State. He played his first season at New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs, New Mexico.

He played in 30 games and started in 19. He averaged 5.8 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game playing in 20.5 minutes per contest.

A versatile guard/forward that stands at 6-foot-6, Gatkuoth transferred to South Plains College with NMJC’s 2020-21 season being canceled. Off the bench, he played in 18 games and averaged 5.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and two assists in 14.6 minutes per game. He helped the Texans advance to the NJCAA Elite Eight as South Plains finished 19-3.

Gatkuoth completed his prep career at Mount Zion Christian Academy in North Carolina. He earned All-Cook Inlet Conference honors and claimed several different all-tournament honors while at Bartlett high school in Anchorage.

Gatkuoth was also named the Deng Camp MVP as he averaged 15.2 points and three assists during the tournament. He also shot 50% from the field and 40% from 3-point range.

“Mareng brings versatility at really every spot,” MSU head coach Danny Sprinkle said. “He can play 1-4, he’s a 6-foot-6 skilled guard who can shoot it. He played point guard on the No. 1 junior college team in the country for the majority of the year and they got upset at the national tournament. He’s playing with 9-10 high level Division I players. His freshman year at New Mexico Junior College he played with some talented guys.

“What I like most about him is the level he’s played at and that he’s been coached. Luke Adams at New Mexico JC does a tremendous job and Steve Green at South Plains is one of the best juco coaches of all time. For Mareng to have that experience to play for those guys that will coach him hard, he’s going to come prepared for the Division I level. He’s super talented because he can do so many things on the court. He’s really skilled, he can pass it and he can really shoot it for his size. That’s where we needed help.”

Spears recently attended Bella Vista Prep in the Phoenix area. Spears was listed among the top 20 recruits coming out of Arizona as part of 24/7 Sports’ recruiting rankings, as well as a top 40-ranked 3-star combo guard in the nation.

The Bella Vista Prep squad Spears was part of plays on the Grind Session circuit which features elite prep basketball players. Spears served as a do-it-all guard for Bella Vista Prep as the team played programs from across the country. He recorded six steals, six rebounds, four assists and 26 points en route to an upset win this past season against then sixth nationally ranked Wasatch Academy.

In a contest versus then ninth-ranked West Oaks Academy, Spears put together a near triple-double totaling 15 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and a steal. During his time with the Bears, Spears registered a 34-point effort versus Minnesota Prep and a 21-point outing versus a SPIRE Academy program that featured LaMelo Ball and Rocket Watts.

Spears has earned multiple Grind Session Player of the Game and Max Preps Player of the Game accolades during his prep career. He claimed Freshman of the Year and Newcomer of the Year honors when he first joined Bella Vista and finished with four letters in basketball.

His father, Dallas, played basketball at Nevada and is a 1996 graduate who played two years of professional basketball overseas.

“Isaac is a 6-foot-4 combo guard who can play the 1 or 2 for us,” Sprinkle said. “He’s a tremendous athlete and scorer who’s very crafty and creative with the ball. I love the type of kid he is. He’s a high character kid who wanted to be here. He and his family said they were waiting on Montana State, and I think that’s important that you have kids that want to come here.

“I think in a normal year we don’t get Isaac. My plan coming into the year wasn’t necessarily to sign six freshmen. I just love their talent, and I think that if we can build and develop them, they can be a special group of players. I think Isaac is a huge part of that and I think he’s got the potential to do big things in his career here.”

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