Griz hoops scrimmage Thursday

MISSOULA The University of Montana Grizzlies’ 2012-13 basketball team will make its public debut on Thursday with the annual Silver-Maroon Scrimmage, starting at 5:30 p.m. in Adams Center’s Dahlberg Arena.

The Lady Griz will play their annual Silver-Maroon contest following the men’s scrimmage, beginning around 7:30 p.m.  There are no admission charges for the scrimmages.

Griz head coach Wayne Tinkle said that prior to his team’s scrimmage they will spend 15 to 20 minutes to work on a skeleton offense, and he wants to get the players warmed up before the actual contest starts.

“We’re going to do that because we are limited,” said Tinkle, now in his seventh season at his alma mater.  “We’ve only got 12 players.  So, we will go six-and-six and we plan on going with a 16-minute (first) half with a ton of time outs; and then adjusting at halftime.  We probably won’t go more than 10 or 12 minutes in the second half.  Obviously it’s early in the year, and we’ve had some injuries, and we certainly don’t want to have any more.

“We just want to get our guys out there and give some experience of playing in front of the public and get some of those nerves out of the way, and see how hard they can play and how focused they can play,” Tinkle said.  “Those are really our main focuses here early.”

The Griz are coming off their third straight 20-win season, a league championship and subsequent NCAA tournament berth, returns three starters from that 25-7 squad and 15-1 conference slate.

The Griz have three starters back: senior guard Will Cherry (6-1, 181), junior guard Kareem Jamar (6-5, 210), and senior forward Mathias Ward (6-7, 223).  Both Cherry and Jamar were first team all-league selections last season, although Cherry, who led the Griz in scoring (15.8 ppg) as a junior, is out of action because of a foot injury.  Jamar was UM’s second leading scorer (10.9 ppg) and rebounder (5.6 rpg).  Ward was third on the team in scoring at 10.9 points a game.

Returning players who will be counted on this season are junior center Eric Hutchison (6-9, 245), sophomore forwards Mike Weisner (6-7, 195) and Kevin Henderson (6-4, 208), and sophomore guards Keron DeShields (6-2, 182) and Jordan Gregory (6-2, 188).  DeShields and Gregory will be key players in the pre-season, as Cherry may not be able to return until December.

A key addition is forward Spencer Coleman (6-6 ½, 198, from Eastern Arizona College), who is expected to compete for a starting job.  Last year Coleman was selected a junior college All-American, first team All-Region and all-conference, when he averaged 15.1 points and 7.3 rebounds a game.

Redshirt freshman forward Nick Emerson (6-5, 206 from Columbia Falls HS), and prep signees Andy Martin (7-0, 223 from Natrona County HS in Wyoming) and Jake Wiley (6-7, 204, from Newport High School in Washington), will be in the mix as well.

“We like our athleticism,” said Tinkle when asked to evaluate his impression of the team after two weeks of practice.  “We feel like we might be a little faster out there than we were a year ago, with some better handlers.  Size-wise we are comparable to a year ago, although unproven with guys like Andy and Jake.  With really only two vets in Mathias and Kareem, we’ve got a lot of inexperienced guys who are learning the level of intensity you need to go at every day – so that’s caused some gray hairs.  By-and-large they’re working hard, and they’re excited for the season which is just around the corner.”

Montana’s first game is just a week away, as on Thursday, Nov. 1, the Grizzlies play Lewis and Clark in an exhibition game which starts at 7:05 p.m. in Dahlberg Arena.  Montana officially begins its season on Nov. 9 at Colorado State.

“We don’t have a lot of time to prepare,” Tinkle said.  “It’s going to be a fly-by-night, learn on the run kind of thing.  But, it seems like teams here do well when they have their backs against the wall or when they have a chip on their shoulder.  We know that we’re going to take some lumps early, at least the staff does; and maybe the players don’t, and they think they’re going to be world-beaters – and that’s not all bad.  We have some tough opponents, and we are very, very unproven.

“I think that through the highs and lows that hopefully we are going to stay together, and know that the bigger part of the season is conference play and building towards that conference tournament in March,” Tinkle continued.  “Last year’s team bought into that.  We had a tough road loss early (last year) to North Dakota, then we had a close game at home against Great Falls, and then we got embarrassed at Oregon State.  We used all of those experiences, along with the wins, to prepare ourselves for league.  We’ve got to take that same approach.  Last year is behind us.  This is a new team with new challenges, and we’ve got to make sure that we keep our priorities right.”

— UM Sports Information