He sat on the bench, dressed not in the normal "street clothes" one sees when a Montana State player -- usually a walk-on, but also an injured player -- is on the bench. While Danny Desin, Cody Anderson,Tor Anderson and the MSU student managers were decked out in dress shirts, dress pants and ties, one lone soul on the MSU bench sat apart from them prior to the contest and sat in a knit cap, jeans and a long-sleeve shirt. The scripted "Tone" was adorning each earlobe, and he was, like many people age 18 to 35 in this day and age, continually checking his smartphone as the MSU men's basketball team warmed up on the court.
Antonio Biglow is a 5-foot-11, 168-pound guard originally from Los Angeles, a product of Sylmar HIgh School. He spent two seasons at Mount San Antonio Junior College in Walnut, Calif. and absolutely blew up basketball in the South Coast Conference, earning the league's Player of the Year award as both a freshman and sophomore and being named the Southern California Player of the Year and California Player of the Year at the junior college level. He averaged 22.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game as a senior as Mt. SAC, as it is known, and signed a National Letter of Intent to play for two seasons in Bozeman on May 9, 2011. Thus began an ordeal no one saw coming.
As he explained through continual and constant Twitter contact after committing and signing, somehow his associate's degree from Mt. SAC wasn't fully validated by the time the 2011-12 school year started. As such, he wasn't a member of the team -- which also meant that while head coach Brad Huse and Montana State tried to figure out what was the deal, Biglow couldn't even set foot on campus. For months, Biglow languished out in California, playing basketball all day and night (or so it seemed) while awaiting words from someone, anyone, as to his status -- not just as a basketball player, but a student as well. We've all heard stories of what happens when athletes get lost in the cracks, or when anyone does. Unless it's kept up with, they become nobodies "who could've been great but missed the opportunity" because the system failed them.
Huse, his staff and MSU kept up with it. Kept after it. Brad Huse is not the kind of man who just lets a "lost cause" fall by the wayside. He's stuck with players in the past who have become academically ineligible before, never disregarding them unless they make the decision to leave on their own. Yes, he wants to see the kids he recruits on the court. But he also wants to see them make something of themselves, walk away from their time in Bozeman with a diploma. Which is why, after at least five months of wrestling with the NCAA and other factors, Biglow arrived in Bozeman on Thursday morning, went to his first class and then spent Thursday evening on a chair behind the MSU bench watching the Bobcats battle back, then fall from ahead and fall in overtime, 87-86, in a contest where free chalupas (achieved whenever MSU hits 11 #superhoops or more) were of no consolation to anyone.
His nameplate was over a locker when he walked into the Bobcat lockerroom, but his locker won't be used much. Biglow can not play for MSU this season at all per NCAA rules. "no go this year start off fresh next year" he tweeted shortly after I tweeted what was likely to happen now that he was on campus. He will practice with the team, with Friday's light pre-game practice (the annual Cat-Griz rivalry game, round 1, is Saturday) presumably his first, and be a student through the rest of this semester and probably have to go through summer school as well.
If he decides to stick it out, he will give MSU another backcourt weapon next season to pair with two will-be senior shooting guards and a will-be sophomore point guard. At 11 p.m., the SoCal start ended the night with this message, one of hope: "I just wanna go to sleep and wake up and its next year just so I could play"
While Biglow was watching from the bench, another spectator connected with the team was in the arena, in a seat somewhere eyeing MSU's come-from-20-down, fall-from-ahead-in-overtime loss to the Bengals. Jamie Stewart is a junior from Detroit, Mich. He came to Bozeman by way of Henry Ford Community College, and once dribbled, shot and played defense on the court MSU was playing on tonight. Unfortunately for Stewart, he spent more time during the first semester of his junior year concentrating on basketball and not enough on his schoolwork (just like a certain scribe penning this piece, but swap student newspaper for basketball and freshman year for junior year). After one game of conference play, where he came off the bench and played a season-low nine minutes, Stewart was so upset he felt like quitting. There were rumors about his grades being bad, anyway, and it looked like he wanted out. He was the more regarded of the HFCC boys -- current starting shooting guard Christian Moon being the other -- and even joked about transferring at semester's end, going back to Michigan to play at a D-II school and giving up in Bozeman.
Just like in Biglow's case, the concept of family, of togetherness, of completing a task won out for Huse. Stewart, who tweeted both "How you let dude hit you for 30 bro! That's terrible (Christian Moon) Im not gonna say what I really want on twitter cuz I'm talking to u now" and "Good game G.. Shoot. Every. Time. (Christian Moon)," has stuck around so far, has been working out on campus while going to class and preparing for next year.
If both do stay on, MSU will be near the scholarship limit next season. Nine of the current scholarship players on the roster return, while Stewart makes 10 if he's still being counted despite being on academic probation. Biglow makes 11 with this redshirt being this lost year, and MSU signed two during the early signing period. That's 13, and they expect to nab at least one more during the April signing period, which is 14. The limit is 15.
For now the Bobcats, who break every practice with "1-2-3-family" and "4-5-6-together" are a bit broken, but all the pieces are there. Will someone be forgotten in the future? Not likely, unless it is their choice to be.
It took a family effort for the Bobcats to come back from the 20-point deficit. Usual suspects Xavier Blount (24) and Christian Moon (22) led the way, but senior forward Jourdain Allou, listed at 6-7 but more around 6-6, put up his first double-double w/13 points and 12 boards. The Idaho State family, on the other bench, walked out of the arena with everyone hugging and cheering its favorite son, Kenny McGowen. McGowen sank seven #superhoops of his own and scored a career-high 30, and his game-winning reverse layup fell through the net with 10.3 left in overtime.
IDAHO STATE 87, at MONTANA STATE 86 02/02/2012
IDAHO STATE 8-14 (6-4) -- C. Grabau 6-14 2-2 16; A. Moreira 4-5 6-8 14; M. Morgan 3-8 0-0 6; K. McGowen 9-18 5-6 30; A. Hatchett 5-8 2-7 12; S. Baldwin 1-5 0-0 2; D. Kostur 3-4 0-0 7; N. Mason 0-1 0-0 0; J. Kusmieruk 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-63 15-23 87. MONTANA STATE 11-10 (6-4) -- C. Moon 7-13 2-2 22; R. Singleton 3-10 2-3 10; X. Blount 7-13 7-10 24; J. Allou 4-5 5-8 13; T. Johnson 4-9 3-6 11; M. Fall 0-1 0-0 0; S. Reid 1-5 1-2 3; M. Dison 0-1 0-0 0; J. Budinich 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 27-59 20-31 86.
Three-point goals: IDST 10-30 (S. Baldwin 0-4; C. Grabau 2-7; N. Mason 0-1; K. McGowen 7-14; M. Morgan 0-3; D. Kostur 1-1), MTST 12-23 (J. Budinich 1-2; S. Reid 0-2; R. Singleton 2-4; C. Moon 6-9; M. Dison 0-1; X. Blount 3-5); Rebounds: IDST 26 (A. Moreira 7), MTST 38 (J. Allou 12); Assists: IDST 11 (K. McGowen 3), MTST 16 (R. Singleton 7); Total Fouls -- IDST 23, MTST 20; Fouled Out: IDST-None; MTST-None.