Class AA boys basketball
2017-18 top three: 1) Great Falls CMR, 2) Bozeman, 3) Great Falls High
Who will emerge in a wide-open Class AA? Missoula Hellgate should be one of the headliners, returning three starters and seven letter winners, led by Montana Grizzlies basketball commit Rollie Worster, as well as Bridger Deden, Dylan Holst and Abe Johnson.
Bozeman brings back five seniors, including 6-foot-6 Ryan Simpson and 6-foot-5 Ryan Lonergan, a Montana State football commit.
Great Falls High returns a strong nucleus, led by all-conference honorable mention guard Blake Thelen, who averaged 12.4 points and 6.7 rebounds, and first-team all-division tournament guard Kyle Torgerson.
Great Falls CMR will look to repeat as the Class AA state champion but will have to overcome the graduation of its top three scorers, returning just four letter winners, led by Bryce Depping.
Missoula Sentinel could be a surprise team with young-but-athletic talent from a JV team that went 17-0 last year, and it’ll look to sophomore Alex Germer and others to replace five starters, including Montana Gatorade player of the year Sam Bieghle.
Billings West will be led by its backcourt of senior Jesse Owens and junior Cade Tyson, who were both among the top nine scorers in the state a year ago, as it tries to duplicate its football success on the hardwood.
Helena High returns three starters, highlighted by second-team all-conference senior guard Connor Murgel, along with guard and MSU football commit Alex Johnson and forward Hayden Ferguson. Helena Capital returns junior Bridger Grovom, who was the team’s leading scorer before breaking his wrist.
Kalispell Glacier needs to replace eight seniors, will get back senior guard Bret Michaels from injury and has 6-foot-4 junior forward Drew Engellant, the son of former Griz standout Daren Engellant. Kalispell Flathead graduated two all-state players and returns just one starter in Anthony Jones to a team that lacks varsity experience but hopes to win with its athleticism.
Billings Skyview has 6-foot-10 Zach Schacht, a Montana Western signee, to lead the way. Billings Senior doesn’t return any starters and will look to five seniors and young talent to carry the load.
Butte brings back Clay Ferguson, who was eighth in the state with 14.7 points per game, from a team went 3-17 last year but will have six seniors this season.
Missoula Big Sky has a new head coach in Cory Sova and returns its leading scorer in Camdyn LaRance as it tries to improve from its 0-21 record last season.
One big number
19.8: Hellgate junior guard Rollie Worster averaged 19.8 points per game last season, tops among players who return this year. He ranked second in the state with that mark and is the only player coming back who finished in the top six in scoring.