BOZEMAN — While the road for Montana State's men’s basketball team may have ended earlier than they had hoped, the year 2022 will forever hold a special place in program history.
“First thing, I just want to say how proud I am of my team," head coach Danny Sprinkle said after Friday's loss against Texas Tech in the NCAA Tournament. "What they’ve done for our university and how they’ve represented us in the Big Sky Conference, I couldn’t be more proud of a group of individuals that came together and really developed as a team.”
Since Danny Sprinkle took over in 2019, the past three seasons have been transformative for Montana State.
In his first year, he led the Bobcats to their first winning season since 2004 when the Bobcats finished the '19-20 season 16-15. The following season was affected by the pandemic, but Montana State still managed to finish 13-10. Now, following the Bobcats' loss to Texas Tech, the program finished 27-8, which is the most wins since the Golden Bobcats in 1929, while also notching both a Big Sky regular-season championship and conference tournament championship.
“They believed in me when nobody else did," Sprinkle stated. "The only people who believed in me before that were my mentors and Waded Cruzado our president and Leon Costello. I didn’t have an interview anywhere else to be a head coach. Not a junior college - nowhere - and they took a chance on me.”
Accompanied by the program's 27 wins, there were a handful of milestones along the way.
In November, a three-game sweep at the UIW Thanksgiving Invitational secured back-to-back regular-season tournament titles under Sprinkle. In December, a 124-point victory against SAGU AIC set a new program record for the most points scored in a single game, which was followed by an undefeated January.
In addition, several Bobcats also hit career achievements with Jubrile Belo and Amin Adamu joining the 1,000-point club, while senior point guard Xavier Bishop surpassed 1,500 career points.
“I can’t even explain sometimes what Coach Sprink and our staff and just my teammates mean to me," Bishop reflected. "Just this entire journey, this entire year has meant the world to me and it made basketball fun again. I truly enjoyed it and I’ll never forget it. We left our legacy no matter the outcome today. We left our legacy at Montana State.”
While the end of the 2022 season means next year Montana State will be without the leadership of Bishop, Adamu, and Abdul Mohamed, the future still looks bright for Bobcat basketball.
“With them going on, it just set the tone for me and Nick (Gazales) coming back next year to just be the type of leaders they were," sophomore guard RaeQuan Battle stated.
“All this does is motivate me more," Sprinkle added. "I don’t get satisfied. Even if we had won today, I wouldn’t be satisfied. There’s something you can always do better. We have to continue with that attitude to take this program to new heights.”