MISSOULA — It's not often that a mid-major college like Montana snags a recruit from a power-five conference.
But that's exactly what the Grizzlies did with the newest member of their men's basketball team in 6-foot-10 San Jose State transfer Michael Steadman.
After a tough year with the Spartans that saw Steadman, a forward, thrive on a bad team, the junior decided to look elsewhere to play so he entered the NCAA's transfer portal. Once he did that, Steadman said schools like Washington State and Arizona in the Pac-12 reached out, as did the University of San Francisco and Portland State.
Montana also reached out right away and that is where Steadman will be suiting up next season. He announced on April 5 over Twitter that he would be heading to Missoula and officially signed his letter of intent this past Monday. Steadman will sit this season out before using his final season of remaining eligibility in 2020-2021.
All it took was a visit, and Steadman knew where he wanted to be.
"I was planning on visiting Washington State and maybe Arizona later, but I just liked Montana so much I decided to commit," Steadman said. "I had a good time and experience at San Jose but I feel like it wasn't a great situation and I was searching for better opportunities and I think I found that here at Montana.
"I like the culture, the teammates and coaching staff. I feel like I have a chance to develop as a player and as a man here."
Steadman arrived in Missoula on Monday, April 1, and he left Wednesday morning. While he was here he had a chance to meet everyone on the team, coaches, faculty and administration while also getting a chance to play with some of Montana's current players. It was then, he said, he felt he didn't need to explore any more options and join the Griz.
As is the case with most players who come in from out of state, that visit was Steadman's first to the Treasure State. But all it took was the short amount of time for him to decide to choose the Griz.
Coming out of James Logan High School in Union City, California, in the Bay Area, Steadman spent two seasons at City College of San Francisco, helping guide the Rams to a 33-1 record and CCCAA state championship in 2017-2018.
After that he jumped to the Division I level to San Jose State in the Mountain West Conference, but the season didn't quite go as planned. San Jose State finished 4-27 overall and 1-17 in conference play despite Steadman producing at a high level. He led the team in scoring (13.2 points per game) and rebounds (8.5) while ranking at No. 3 in the conference in field goal percentage.
"It was my first time playing Division I basketball so I was actually learning as the season went on," Steadman said. "It gave me a chance to develop as a player but yet again I do feel like there is better opportunity out there and I found that at Montana."
So he opted to put his name in the transfer portal and it wasn't long until UM associate head coach Chris Cobb, a Bay Area native himself, reached out to Steadman.
"We won our semifinal game against Weber State (at the Big Sky tournament), he hit the portal and I called him right away and I had about a 30-minute conversation walking back to the hotel," Cobb said. "You could tell he was interested. I think it always helps when you recruit guys from home. There's common relationships that we have."
Cobb flew back to the Bay Area a few weeks later to meet with Steadman and his father, and from there everything took off.
"One of the things we were able to sell him on was people. He really wanted to be around good people and a part of a winning culture," Cobb said. "That was something Montana's been able to deliver to student-athletes for decades and for him in particular, the success that Martin Breunig and Jamar Akoh had for us was something that we kind of laid out."
Specifically, letting Steadman know that the coaching staff has experience with developing big men during a redshirt season similar to what he'll go through. Cobb said Steadman doesn't really struggle in any area of his game but there are categories that he believes can go to the next level, such as his shooting from the perimeter. Cobb also expects Steadman to make even greater strides with his strength and conditioning.
But Cobb anticipates he'll make a seamless transition in many other areas, especially with a year to learn UM's systems.
"His touch around the rim and feel to play with his back to the basket is something that should be able to translate into our offense and what we ask our posts to do," Cobb said. "The rebounding numbers will translate. I think rebounding is always something that translates regardless of level. To be able to average eight or nine rebounds a game in the Mountain West is incredibly impressive."
While researching Montana, Steadman reached out to SJSU teammate Brae Ivey, who was born in Missoula and has grandparents who live in Montana. Montana's back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament and strong pipeline with the Bay Area — Will Cherry, Mario Dunn, and Sayeed Pridgett to name a few — also appealed to Steadman when he was doing his research. Pridgett, who was a first-team Big Sky player this year for the Griz, hosted Steadman on his trip to Missoula. He'll study business management once he arrives at Montana and will be in Missoula over the summer to begin workouts.
"It's kind of still surreal right now but I'm just looking forward to working with the guys and getting in the lab with them," Steadman said.