HELENA —Helena High boys basketball player Connor Murgel achieved his dream of playing college basketball when he committed to play for the University of Providence's basketball program.

Murgel described signing with Providence to begin playing with the Argos in the 2019-2020 basketball season as a surreal experience.

"It's always been a childhood dream of mine to compete at the NAIA-level," Murgel said. "I am excited. I dreamt about playing basketball (at the college level) as a child, and now my dream is about to come true."

Murgel, who stands at 5-foot-10, admits he knew playing collegiate basketball wouldn't be easy because of his size.

He utilized what he perceived as a disadvantage to become the top-caliber Class AA player he is today.

"I've always looked at myself as the underdog," Murgel said. "I play with a little chip on my shoulder to try and prove something (on the basketball court)."

Perceiving himself as undersized hasn't stopped Murgel from excelling on the court as a critical component to Helena's success.

"I'm undersized on the court," Murgel said. "Standing at only 5-10 isn't ideal for a basketball player when you are talking about basketball players who are 6-foot, 4 inches and with good athleticism. I've always developed a good work ethic and motivation to succeed and have been a student-athlete to compete in whatever I do."

Bengals coach Brandon Day vouched for Murgel's work ethic and drive.

"There isn't a kid that deserves an opportunity to play college ball more than Connor," Day said. "The truth is, there aren't many kids out there that put in the time in practice that Murgel does. He's the type of kid that stays after games and shoots, and he'll be shooting on Sunday. He's constantly working on his game, and he's a coachable kid. He's put in the time to develop into a college basketball player."

Conner' ability to shoot allowed the Bengals to compete with some of Class AA's elite teams throughout the season.

"His ability to shoot the ball consistently is what has gotten him to the next level," Day said. "He's an athletic and strong kid, and can score when needed. That is something that he has been able to do to get where he is at."

Day has seen Murgel develop as a player for a long time. He has coached him the past two seasons, and said he felt Murgel's character would allow him to make a successful transition at the NAIA level.

"Connor is an outstanding young man, is unique and extremely determined," Day said. "He has developed a basketball sense through his high school career, and an ability to be a leader over the last couple of years."

The style of player that Murgel is will fit right into coach Steve Keller's system with Argos, according to Day.

"I think that playing for coach Keller, and his offense, is ideal for Connor," Day said. "There will be an obvious adjustment period from high school to college ball for Connor. He will work and eventually earn his spot in the program."

Murgel vividly recalls the toy hoop he played on as a youngster when he first began to develop an affinity for the game.

"As a child, I remember shooting and dunking on a toy hoop," Murgel said. "I remember going to all of the games as a kid, being a ball boy and just dreaming of stepping on the court. Thankfully, I got to play at the high school level all four years, and now I get an opportunity to play at the college level, which is special."

Playing at the NAIA level has been his aspiration, according to Murgel, and now he gets to play on Keller's team, a coach who had appeared in the NAIA tournament eight of his final nine seasons at Montana Western before coming to Providence last season.

"Keller has a great staff and team, and I get the opportunity to play for one of the best coaches ever," Murgel said. "He knows how to win, and I am looking forward to being a part of that tradition."

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Jason Blasco is the lead prep sports reporter for the Helena Indepedent-Record and a sports reporter for the 406mtsports.com network.

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