Montana basketball: Rorie named Big Sky Preseason Player of the Year

If they didn’t before, the league’s head coaches have now fully appreciated the value of Montana guards Ahmaad Rorie and Michael Oguine. And why wouldn’t they? The duo combined for 33 points per game while leading Montana to a Big Sky title in 2017-18.

Rorie and Oguine were two of six players recognized on Wednesday morning, with Rorie earning Big Sky Conference preseason player-of-the-year honors and Oguine being named to the preseason all-conference team. Voting was conducted by the league’s head coaches, sports information directors and media members.

Montana is the only school to have multiple players on the team. Joining Rorie and Oguine on the preseason all-conference team is Jordan Davis (Northern Colorado), Tyler Hall (Montana State), Jerrick Harding (Weber State) and Holland Woods (Portland State).

“I think it exemplifies the things we talk about,” head coach Travis DeCuire said. “When you commit to the team, play together and win, good things will happen.”

An All-Big Sky first-team honoree a season ago, Rorie earned a sport on his second consecutive preseason team after finishing seventh in the league for scoring last season with 17.2 points per game and ranking third for assists (3.7) and eighth for steals (1.2). He also came in third with a 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio during league games, and made 85 percent of his attempts from the free-throw line.

Rorie was named a Big Sky Championship all-tournament team selection as he helped the top-seeded Grizzlies earn a NCAA tournament berth by claiming the Big Sky Championship, finishing the season with a 26-8 overall record and 16-2 conference mark. He also captured NABC All-District 6 first-team honors.

Oguine was just as valuable to the Grizzlies, being named the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year and earning Big Sky Championship MVP honors, helping the Grizzlies knock off North Dakota, Northern Colorado and Eastern Washington on consecutive nights to earn a trip to March Madness.

On the season, Oguine averaged 15.8 points per game while ranking fifth in the league with 1.4 steals. He was the only player in the Big Sky to rank in the top 20 during league play for scoring, steals and rebounding.

Both players surpassed 1,000 career points scored last season and are expected to finish their careers ranked in the top five in school history.

“It’s been a long road for Ahmaad, coming here from Oregon,” DeCuire said. “He’s worked on his skills on both sides of the ball, and has improved a lot and has become a lock-down defender. Mike’s explosiveness is something that everyone has respected, but his guard skills – his shooting and passing – have taken him to the next level.”

Since the league introduced the preseason poll prior to the 2015-16 season, no team has had more selections than Montana (five). This is the first time a Grizzly has been selected as the preseason player of the year.

The voting doesn’t always hold true, but generally leads to strong results. Of the six players named to last year’s preseason team, all six earned all-conference recognition in March. Over the past three years, 17 of 19 preseason selections have been honored at the end of the year, including nine first-team honorees.

“All of us are always trying to get better every day,” DeCuire said. “We’re never good enough. You always have to be hungry for more, and I think Ahmaad and Mike exemplify that.”

Montana has had seven end-of-season MVPs, most recently by Kareem Jamar in 2012-13.

On Thursday morning, the league will announce the 2018-19 preseason coaches’ and media polls.