New-look Glacier boys have big holes to fill
Even before it happened, this year’s Glacier team was going to look a whole lot different than a season ago.
Gone already were seven graduated seniors, including honorable mention all-conference guard Sam McCamley, the Wolfpack’s second leading scorer and a 41.4 percent 3point shooter.
But at least the ’Pack would bring back one of the best underclassman in Montana, all-state big man Jaxen Hashley. As a sophomore, Hashley led Glacier in scoring (10.8 per game), rebounding (9.5), assists (2.2) and steals (1.8).
Then, early in the football season, Hashley — also an all-state defensive end — tore a pair of ligaments in his right knee, an injury that will likely keep him sidelined until next fall.
And the basketball coaches went back to the drawing board. “You don’t replace Jaxen,” Glacier coach Mark Harkins said. “You’ve just got to work and do the best that we can to fill holes.” “He’s a tremendous player,” senior Jake Willich said of Hashley. “Obviously Jaxen’s a tough loss and he brings a big presence inside that can be tough for some people to match up with because of his unique skill set … but we’re fine.”
Glacier’s first chance to prove it’s fine comes tonight at 7: when the Wolfpack host Great Falls C.M. Russell.
“I think (Hashley’s injury) would have been a lot harder to deal with had this happened during the middle of our season,” Harkins said. “The fact that kids have known for several weeks now that he wasn’t going to be playing, we haven’t seen anybody hanging their heads, any ‘poor me’ sort of thing.” Harkins has spent the weeks since Hashley’s injury retooling Glacier’s offense around a cadre of athletic guards that make up for in quickness what they lack in experience. The Wolfpack’s tallest healthy returner is 6 foot 4 wing Noah Lindsay.
“Our philosophy is to try and make what’s going to be best for your kids, your personnel, and fit that,” Harkins said. “We’ve had to change some things.” “We don’t have a presence inside,” senior point guard Dylan Ruggles said. “So we’ve got to go five out, penetrate, dish and kick for threes.
“We’ve got good shooters on this team, good penetrators and good passers, but it’s going to be different without Jaxen, though, for sure.”
Ruggles brings as much varsity experience as anyone to the Wolfpack this year, and will be counted on to direct a frenetic defense and fast-paced offense.
“We’re going to try to use defense to create offense,” Harkins said. “We’re going to play full-court, we’re going to trap, we’re going to run and jump.
“Look for 94 feet all game long.”
With Hashley on the shelf, junior Taden Gilman is Glacier’s top returning scorer. Gilman averaged just less than five points per game as a sophomore, and he and Lindsay figure to be leaned heavily on to fill a massive scoring void. Without Hashley, the Wolfpack is missing more than 77 percent of its points from last year.
Glacier’s guards, however, see opportunity in a newly diverse offense.
“I don’t think we’re going to have one person in particular,” Ruggles said. “I think every game is going to be different depending on matchups, depending on who’s hot.
“We can all shoot the ball, we can all pass the ball and we’re all looking to make our teammates look better. I don’t think there’s one person that’s going to dominate the season.”
Even with all the question marks, internal expectations are as high as ever. After missing the state tournament for the first time since the first year of the program (200708), Harkins and his players expect to be in Bozeman in March.
“I think this is a team that’s going to get better and better and better as the season goes,” Harkins said. “We had a meeting (last week) and we talked about team goals and where we want to be, and there’s no question that the state tournament is where these boys expect to be.
“That’s their goal and I think that’s a very realistic goal for them.”