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Montana sophomore forward Jake Wiley leaves program

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Montana’s front court stable took a hit on Sunday afternoon, as it was announced that 6-foot-6 sophomore forward Jake Wiley has decided to leave the program. Wiley, a native of Newport, Wash., played 20 games as a freshman (3.0 mpg) and posted averages of 0.9 points and 0.6 rebounds per game.

“Jake has decided not to play any longer with the Grizzlies for personal reasons, and obviously we honor that decision,” Tinkle said according to KTVQ TV in Billings, Mont. “Jake is a great young kid with a promising future, and we wish him well.”

Wiley played a season-high 13 minutes in the Grizzlies’ NCAA tournament loss to Syracuse, accounting for five points (2-for-3 FG), one rebound and one blocked shot. Wiley’s decision to leave the program means that the Griz have one less option to call on in the front court, with Washington transfer Martin Bruenig having to sit out the 2013-14 season per NCAA rules.

Senior center Eric Hutchison (3.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg) will be a key figure for the Griz with Mathias Ward out of eligibility, and sophomore center Andy Martin stands to see his minutes increase as well after playing 8.2 minutes per game as a freshman. Montana also adds Western Texas College transfer Chris Kemp, a 6-foot-7 forward who posted averages of 7.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last season.

Montana does have senior Kareem Jamar (14.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.0 apg), the reigning Big Sky Player of the Year, at the small forward position. He, along with guards Keron DeShields and Jordan Gregory, will be expected to lead the way for the Griz as they look to hold off Weber State and North Dakota and remain at the top of the Big Sky.

Michigan State AD Mark Hollis hoping to honor Jud Heathcoate with four-team event

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Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis and head coach Tom Izzo have come up with some interesting ideas when it comes to the Spartans’ non-conference schedule over the years.

Michigan State has taken on many high-profile challenges and played in some interesting environments, such as their game on an aircraft carrier against North Carolina two years ago and the matchup with UConn at Ramstein Air Base to kick off the 2012-13 campaign.

According to Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press there’s another idea in the works, as Hollis is looking to organize a four-team tournament in Spokane to honor former Michigan State head coach Jud Heathcoate.

“Like the events we’ve had before, this is something that’s being put together for the good of the game of basketball,” Hollis told the Free Press, “and to recognize a true legend of the game.”

But this won’t be your standard four-team event, as Heathcoate will have ties to all four schools: Michigan State, Gonzaga, Montana and Washington State.

Heathcoate served as an assistant at Washington State before taking the head coaching job at Montana, and from there he moved on to Michigan State where he won a national title in 1979 with players such as Magic Johnson and Greg Kelser leading the way.

Heathcoate is currently a resident of Spokane and his relationship with the Gonzaga program and head coach Mark Few serves as the reason why the Bulldogs would be involved.

The proposed match-ups would be good, with Michigan State taking on Gonzaga in what would be a marquee battle that would draw national interest and two-time defending Big Sky champion Montana battling a Washington State program looking to rebound from a disappointing 2012-13 campaign.

Hopefully this event happens on two fronts. First, there’s the angle of having two competitive early-season basketball games.

But more importantly, it would serve as a way to bring together those who have been influenced by Heathcoate and allow them to show their appreciation.

h/t The Dagger

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Montana forward Mathias Ward done for year after undergoing foot surgery

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Wayne Tinkle’s Montana Grizzlies have managed to hang onto sole possession of first place in the Big Sky despite late-season injuries to seniors Will Cherry and Mathias Ward.

And if the Grizzlies are to win the Big Sky tournament next week they’ll have to do so without their best front court player, as Ward underwent surgery on his foot Wednesday. As a result of the procedure the 6-7 senior’s college career is over, leaving a major hole in Montana’s front court rotation.

In 24 games this season Ward averaged 14.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, shooting 51% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. Ward, the team’s leading scorer, hasn’t played since suffering the injury in a February 16 win at Idaho State.

“It was a deal where we were thinking about his future and getting that surgery done so that he might have opportunities to play in the future,” Tinkle said in a statement released by the school.

“It’s just too bad it had to happen late in the season in his senior year. We will definitely miss him out on the floor.”

With Ward sidelined Montana has won two of the three games that he’s missed, averaging 81.3 points per game. In wing Kareem Jamar the Grizzlies have one of the Big Sky’s best players, and with both Ward and Cherry out players such as Jordan Gregory and Keron DeShields have been asked to raise their offensive production.

Spencer Coleman and Mike Weisner have seen an increase in their minutes due to Ward’s injury, with Coleman averaging 12.7 points and 5.3 rebounds over the last three games.

Montana expects Cherry, who re-injured the foot he broke before the season began in an overtime loss at Davidson, to return for the Big Sky tournament. If the senior guard hits the ground running when he returns and both Coleman and Weisner take advantage of their increased opportunities inside, the Grizzlies will be capable of repeating as Big Sky champions.

But given the depth that Weber State has at its disposal, the loss of Ward makes Montana’s quest all the more difficult.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Montana guard Kevin Henderson suspended after being charged with DUI

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Sophomore Kevin Henderson has been suspended from the Montana men’s basketball team after being charged with DUI Sunday, the Associated Press is reporting.

According to the report, Henderson was pulled over by campus police Sunday and found to have a blood-alcohol level of greater than 0.02, which is the legal limit for persons under the age of 21. Henderson, only a sophomore, is 20. He pleaded not guilty on Monday.

His suspension comes as a violation of the student-athlete code of conduct, the school announced, and Grizzles’ coach Wayne Tinkle says the plan of action is, “clear on the punishment, but it’s also important that Henderson learn and grow from the situation,” according to the AP.

Henderson has seen a significant increase in his minutes since his freshman season, now averaging 2.8 points and 2.2 rebounds in just over 12 minutes per game. His best game of the season came on Jan. 10 against North Dakota when he scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds in a double-digit Montana win.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

What’s a ‘money game’ and how is Montana taking advantage?

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With small budgets at the low-major levels of Division I basketball, teams many times take advantage of “money games,” or games in which small-conference schools travel to the home arenas of high-major teams for early season matchups, in exchange for cash.

These are mutually beneficial. Though we might see a 100-52 blowout, the high-major gets a chance to get into the swing of things before more difficult non-conference games, while the small school gets to play on the big stage, and adds a little cash to the bank.

Fresh off an NCAA tournament berth last season, Montana is installing an incentive based on these “money games” into the contract extension of coach Wayne Tinkle.

According to the Associated Press, Tinkle must generate $80,000 per year in “money game” guarantees, and is able to share any additional money up to $150,000 with his assistants.

Tinkle will receive a base salary of $135,000, in addition to incentives and other bonuses for athletic and academic progress.

The most appealing part for the school, as the report points out, is that Tinker can have a more competitive salary, while not burdening the state. With revenue coming from other sources, Montana will not have to pay as much, but could keep him in the head coaching role.

Montana finished last season with an overall record of 25-7, including 15-1 in the Big Sky. The team played what could be assumed to be a “money game” against Oregon State on December 4, a 71-46 loss on the road.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_