BILLINGS — Relegated to finite movements and a narrow workload, Brent Finn spends his time preparing for his final season of college basketball by toiling through the simplest fundamentals — namely the few hundred form shots he attempts each day on the hoop outside his house in Big Timber.
Finn just transferred from Division I Montana State in Bozeman to D-II MSU Billings, and it will be a while yet before he can truly let loose thanks to a still-healing hip injury that’s been dogging him since August.
He’s already taken a circuitous route to this point of his career, going from a three-time Class B all-state selection at Sweet Grass County High School to a productive two-year stint at Dawson Community College in Glendive to a season of D-II competition at Texas A&M International to trying his hand at the D-I level for coach Danny Sprinkle at Montana State.
Now at MSUB, the 6-foot-1 Finn knows it be will all be for naught if he isn’t diligent when it comes to rehabbing his hip, an ailment that kept him off the court for two months as a non-scholarship redshirt with the Bobcats last season.
“It’s hard because I really want to do more,” Finn told 406mtsports.com. “I don’t like not being able to really play and really go hard. But I want this injury to heal, and that’s reason enough for me to take it a little slower. It’s feeling really good. I’ve been pain-free for a while now, and I think I’ve been doing everything right so far.”
Finn comes to the Yellowjackets with a scorer’s reputation, notoriety that has followed him since he led his high school team in Big Timber to three District 5B championships and two state tournament appearances.
Then, as a sophomore at Dawson, Finn averaged 18.1 points and helped the Buccaneers reach the Region XIII title game. He then transferred to Texas A&M International, where he scored 14.1 points per game while playing roughly 34 minutes a night.
He set out to prove last year that he could be a legitimate Division I player with Montana State, but the injury set him back. Instead, he’s focused on making his one season with the Yellowjackets serve as his final flourish.
“The plan had been to come to Bozeman and prove that I could earn a scholarship for this next year,” Finn said. “But when I got there I was dealing with an injury to my hip and it ended up getting worse and I ended up not practicing at all for the whole second semester.”
But his confidence was never shaken.
“The big thing that I’m known for is shooting, especially from high school, but I’ve added a lot to my game and I’m really looking forward to showing people what I can do now,” Finn said. “I think my year in Bozeman I learned a lot from good players and good coaches there, and my IQ’s gotten a lot higher. But I’m a scorer and a really competitive player.”
Coach Mick Durham, whose close relationship with Sprinkle from their days together at Montana State helped steer Finn to the Yellowjackets, said MSUB is gradually retooling its backcourt following the graduation of sharpshooting guard Tyler Green.
The Jackets have also signed transfer guards Man Man Baker out of Dawson CC, Eric Norton from Foothill College in California and Carrington Wiggins from Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan. And they still have Billings Central product Chrishon Dixon, a sophomore-to-be, at point guard, among others.
In the frontcourt are two all-conference players in Brendan Howard and Zharon Richmond.
Durham likes Finn’s potential in that mix.
Finn is “a catch-and-shoot guy. He has a scoring mentality,” said Durham, who will be entering his third season at MSUB. “He did that at Dawson in junior college, and then the Division II experience in Texas. He can score in a variety of ways with the midrange shot and shooting the 3.
“I see him in a lot of ways just a prototype shooting guard, and then we’ll go from there. I see him hopefully being that knock-down guy. He’s definitely gotten stronger since high school, too.”
It took an NCAA waiver for Finn to be eligible for competition at MSUB since he had already played at the D-II level once before, but he said Sprinkle and the Bobcats coaches helped guide him through that process.
Finn said he grew in the past year by playing against and watching Montana State standout Harald Frey, as well as Xavier Bishop, an heir to Frey in the Bobcats’ backcourt who redshirted with Finn last season.
“It was a blessing in disguise to be redshirting in Bozeman and to have the people I had around me,” Finn said.
“I think we’re getting a pretty mature basketball player,” Durham said.
Finn's matriculation to MSU Billings had a lot to do with remaining in-state and staying close to home, and it’s an added bonus that his brother Blake is a member of the Yellowjacket golf team. Finn’s sister, Bailey, will be a high school sophomore next season and is already proving to be a prolific scorer in her own right.
On the court, Finn wants to be a part of a winning program again, and he’s focused on helping the Jackets return to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference postseason.
“I think we can have a solid team,” Finn said. “To put it simply, I just want to win. That’s the big thing going into this year.
“My one year in Texas we didn’t win at all, and then at Dawson we got to the Region championship my sophomore year and lost. So I just want to do everything I can to win and have a solid last year.”
Finn is betting that the meticulous form shots he’s hoisting now will soon pay off when he’s back at full strength when it matters most.
Email Greg Rachac at Greg.Rachac@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @gregrachac
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