BILLINGS — Tyler Hall’s first points at Montana State were scored on a jump shot early in a game on the road at a preseason tournament in Hawaii on Nov. 13, 2015.
It was a promising beginning for Hall, who had 15 points that night in his first collegiate outing as a touted 6-foot-4 guard out of Rock Island, Illinois. But his future remained unwritten.
Four years, 722 field goals and 352 free throws later, the time has come for Hall to cement his status as one of the greatest to fill buckets in the Big Sky Conference.
With two more points, the Montana State guard will become the league’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing the mark set just last season by ex-Eastern Washington standout Bogdan Bliznyuk, who ended his career with 2,169 points.
Hall should eclipse the record sometime early in the Bobcats’ game Saturday afternoon, which fittingly comes against Bliznyuk’s former team at Reese Court in Cheney, Washington. The game tips off at 3 p.m. Mountain time and will be televised on SWX Montana stations across the state.
As Hall has inched closer to the Big Sky record — he cracked the 2,000 point barrier on Nov. 27 and then passed Larry Chanay to set MSU’s scoring mark on Dec. 9 — he has brushed aside questions of his scoring prowess like an annoying housefly.
And he means it.
“I honestly really do not pay attention to it,” Hall reiterated following the Bobcats’ 73-70 home loss to Northern Colorado on Monday, a game in which he scored 25 points but fell short of the record — and what could have been a defining win.
“It’s hard kind of not to see it,” he conceded. “If I see stuff or if people say something, I kind of just acknowledge it, but that’s pretty much it.”
It’s something Hall may revel in when his career is over, but for now he’s focused on helping the Bobcats (7-9, 4-2) contend within the league in his final season, and that’s something the team is yet to seriously do. Nevertheless, the individual numbers deserve recognition.
In 110 games at MSU, Hall has:
• Scored 2,168 points, the most in school history.
• Averaged 19.7 points, currently among the top 15 in Big Sky history.
• Made 370 3-pointers, the most in Big Sky history.
• Accumulated 15 30-point games, fourth among active Division I players.
When Bobcats coach Brian Fish was recruiting Hall, part of his sales pitch was that Hall could one day break the school’s career scoring record, which had been held by Chanay for nearly 60 years.
“We sold it in recruiting,” Fish said Tuesday. “Not the conference record, but we said, ‘The way we’re going to build this you’d have a chance to be the school’s all-time leading scorer.’ That was a vision that was sold to him in recruiting.
“But to say (the) conference’s all-time leading scorer? I didn’t even know what the record was. To be there and still have 14 games left in his career, he’s got a chance to obliterate that record.”
Hall has at least 15 games remaining, including Saturday’s contest at EWU and one guaranteed game at the Big Sky postseason tournament in March. And Fish makes a valid claim: With each passing point Hall scores from Saturday until the end of the season he will only build upon his record total.
Through 16 games this year, Hall is averaging 19.2 points. If he continues that pace, he would end his career with (roughly) 2,450 points, providing a cushion at the top.
Hall also has a chance to join the 2,500-point club, a fraternity that included just 66 Division I players at the start of this season, names like Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson, Pete Maravich, Larry Bird and Stephen Curry.
To put that in perspective, more than 570 players are in the 2,000-point club, according to the NCAA D-I record book.
The Big Sky scoring record has been broken three times in the past 40 years, first by Weber State’s Bruce Collins in 1980 (2,019 points), again by Idaho’s Orlando Lightfoot in 1994 (2,012) and lastly by Bliznyuk a year ago.
Hall began this season ranked 11th on the league’s scoring list, but along the way has passed the likes of MSU’s Nate Holmstadt (1995-99), Weber State’s Damian Lillard (2008-12), Montana’s Larry Krystkowiak (1982-86), Collins (1976-80) and Lightfoot (1991-94).
Bliznyuk is the last man Hall has left to conquer, though he won’t give it much thought.
“As long as we get a win, if I have zero points, that’s all that really matters to me,” Hall said.
Following its game at Eastern Washington on Saturday, Montana State returns home to host Weber State and Idaho State at Worthington Arena on Thursday and Saturday.