If you look at the schedule of the Butte Central Tip-Off Tournament, you might think it was early March instead of December.
A star-studded field will open the season in the Mining City Friday and Saturday with three of the final four teams in the 2013 Class A state tournament competing in BC’s annual tournament. Schedule
Butte Central advanced to the semifinals again last year. They’ll be joined in the tournament with state runner-up Billings Central, state semifinalist Laurel and tournament qualifier Browning.
Also competing at the tournament is perennial Class B contender Missoula Loyola, Livingston, Hardin and Salmon, Idaho.
The boys play at the Butte Civic Center on Friday and at the Maroon Activities Center on Saturday.
Butte Central coach Brodie Kelly had a hand in picking the schedule, and of course, the Maroons are playing a tough one.
The Maroons will play Billings Central at 7:15 p.m. Friday before taking on Laurel at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The theory behind the schedule is the Maroons want to get ready for the state tournament, which is March 6-8 in Great Falls. Butte Central is hoping to qualify for state for the ninth time in 10 years.
The Maroons don’t just qualify for the tournament, either. They have advanced to the semifinals six times and placed second in 2005 and 2008.
It appears Kelly, who is entering his 10th year as coach, has the players to make another run in 2013-14.
BC enters the season with a roster full of battle-tested and accomplished players. Three of the five seniors on the Maroons’ roster have already signed to play basketball or football in college.
Point guard Kale Guldseth and forward Nate Bolstad signed to play basketball at Montana Tech. Post player Connor McGree will play football at Carroll College.
All three started last season, with Guldseth (second team) and Bolstad (first team) taking home all-conference honors.
Guldseth has been a key contributor since his sophomore season.
“Kale has great lateral quickness,” Kelly said. “He does a great job controlling our offense, and he defends the ball really well.”
The 6-foot-4 Bolstad also played as a sophomore, and Kelly is expecting big things from the well-rounded player.
“Nate is long and athletic,” the coach said. “He is a versatile scorer and defender.”
McGree, who is 6-3, is BC’s jack of all trades.
“He is an athletic defender and rebounder,” Kelly said. “He is a good role player.”
Seniors Dylan Goodell and Junlin Liu played junior varsity last year. They are expected to contribute on the varsity level this season.
The Maroons also return junior post Marcus Ferriter (6-3), an all-conference honorable mention player last year, along with experienced juniors Danny Peoples, Dalton Sessions and Chad Peterson.
Sophomore guard Cal Hollow, whose brother Colin was a three-year starter for the Maroons, is also expected to contribute on varsity. So is sophomore Cole Harper.
Kelly said a strength of his team is it is full of team players.
“We have a very unselfish and hard-working team,” the coach said. “We have a lot of guys who can score this year, but they are making the extra pass to find an open teammate. We have eight guys who can make threes. They have put a lot of work into their shots.”
Last season the Maroons qualified for the state tournament by placing second at the Southwestern A division tournament in Butte.
That tournament will be in Butte again this season, but getting out of the tournament will be anything but easy considering the conference includes defending state champion Stevensville, Dillon and an improving Anaconda program.
Butte Central doesn’t have long to get ready for the conference season. BC plays home to Anaconda and Stevensville next week.