Travis DeCuire

Montana coach Travis DeCuire will begin tinkering with his team when practice officially begins Friday.

MISSOULA — Travis DeCuire sounds a little bit like a craftsman when talking about his Montana men’s basketball team.

He has all the components, it’s a matter of finding the best use for each. He’ll start to get a better idea of where each piece fits best when the Griz have their first official practice on Friday.

“Enthusiasm, willing to learn,” the third-year coach said in describing what he’s seen during workouts thus far. “It’s going to be a fun group. I’m not sure how good we will or won’t be, that’s to be determined. It’s going to be a fun group to tinker with. I have a lot of pieces I can move around and play together to give us different looks.”

Part of that will be out of necessity. The Griz knew their go-to man last season was post Martin Breunig, who averaged 18.9 points and 9.0 rebounds for a team that advanced to the Big Sky title game for the fourth time in five seasons.

“It’s committee, but you create those numbers in other areas,” DeCuire said of replacing the unanimous first-team all-Big Sky pick. “The 20 points, we’ll replace that with shots from other spots on the floor. The rebounds can be replaced by forced turnovers, which still lead to possessions. I think we position rebound by committee. The guards, guys like (Michael Oguine) and Mario (Dunn) can create opportunities for us offensively on long rebounds. Mostly it’s going to be by committee, but the more aggressive approach on both sides of the ball will make up for those numbers.”

This season’s team figures to be more perimeter oriented, and with good reason.

The team’s leading returning scorer is senior guard Walter Wright (13.2 ppg), followed by backcourt mate Oguine (11.0), just a sophomore. Ahmaad Rorie, a transfer from Oregon who becomes eligible this season; freshman Sayeed Pridgett plus senior Mario Dunn give DeCuire a lot of options at guard.

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“We’ll try to keep the tempo up and use our speed as much as possible,” DeCuire said. “Our strength is speed. The biggest difference you’ll notice is the way the floor is going to be spread and their ability to attack and create.”

Plus guys like seniors Brandon Gfeller and Jack Lopez, and sophomore Bobby Moorehead — players with better size — still do their best offensive work from the perimeter.

“To be honest, what’s happened over the years is you run the same offense, you just emphasize different things,” DeCuire said. “So Martin was a phenomenal screener, the better he screened the better the opportunities he got around the rim for uncontested or one-on-one possessions. Now we run the same plays and those great screeners get shots for good shooters and if their man helps too much maybe they get layups. It’ll look like the same offense, but the execution will be a little different.

That leaves Fabijan Krslovic , a 6-foot-8 junior, to man the post. He could receive some help on the inside from freshman Alphonso Anderson, a solidly built 6-6, 218-pound forward. Anderson, though, is not ready to practice yet due to an old injury.

“He had a second surgery this summer to clean up an MCL issue,” DeCuire said. “We hope to have him back in the next few weeks.”

So let the tinkering begin.

“You kinda get a feel for kids when you recruit them, where you might want to play them, then you tinker a little bit,” DeCuire said. “Maybe one guy’s not ready for the complete role that you had for him. Maybe you find out another kid is a little more valuable somewhere else. The talent is what I thought it would be. Some of it is young and needs to be nurtured and developed. They’ll be exciting to watch.”

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