I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.
In some ways, Mathias Ward for Montana was the consummate college basketball player. He came to the Grizzlies as a role player, got better and better each season, and left as an excellent player and superb student-athlete. While his career ended on a low note (with a season-ending injury), Ward was an excellent player who was great at what he did.
While he was 6'7'' and played the four spot for Montana, he was not a traditional big man. He wasn't a great rebounder, though he improved as a post defender throughout his time in Missoula. However, he was probably the best midrange shooter in the conference, which was huge for the Grizzlies' offense.
As a senior, Ward shot 54% on twos, 40% on threes (after shooting 21 threes in his first three seasons, this was an area of his game he worked on and became a legitimate threat), and 52% from the foul line. He could score from the block, and would occasionally post up, but he was deadly from the midrange, which worked well in an offense with Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar.
After a solid first two years where he was efficient as a role player, he stepped into the starting lineup and became even better. As a junior, his ORtg of 118.2 was great, buoyed by the great shooting and the fact that he did not turn the ball over. He knew his game and his role, and did not try to do too much.
Before he got hurt last season, Ward led the team with 14.8 PPG. It will be tough for the Grizzlies to make up that scoring, but hopefully everyone can strive to emulate Ward's constant improvement.
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