Editor's note: This is the fifth in an eight-part series profiling some of the state's basketball stars as 406mtsports.com previews the 2017-18 season.
ROUNDUP — The Roundup Panthers open their boys basketball season at home against Glasgow Dec. 8. They follow that up with a game against Baker the next day.
However, it is Dec. 10 that has senior standout Kelson Eiselein nervous.
The date will mark his first concert with the school's band.
Eiselein began playing the trombone this year, a new beginning that has been a challenging change from basketball.
"It's been hard at first, learning all of the notes and trying to get the right sound, but I'm kind of tuning in on it," Eiselein said.
Why did he try it?
"Actually, I needed a fine art credit," he said with a laugh. "I have enjoyed it. I've met a new group of people that I wouldn't usually meet or interact with in my regular day, so I kind of look at it for a good social opportunity. Little nervous for the first concert."
While the stage might put Eiselein out of his comfort zone, the basketball court is far more familiar.
Eiselein is a perfect example of how the game of basketball has changed. He's a big man who can post up yet also knock down 3-pointers at a consistent rate, keeping defenders honest.
Eiselein is listed at 6-foot-4, but standing next to him it seems he might be an inch or two taller. Players his size can be rare around Montana, and in Class B, even more-so.
"I use that to my advantage sometimes when in our offense we run position-less basketball," Eiselein said. "So I can cut, I can take them off the dribble and I can post up whenever I see fit. It's a big advantage for me."
Eiselein's height has always been there. One of the tallest kids in his grade each year, he never had to deal with any crazy growth spurts later in life and adjusting to it that way.
"I was about 6-3 in seventh grade, I had a size 14 shoe," he said with a smile. "The height has grown but the shoe hasn't."
Eiselein has been starting for Roundup since his third career varsity game as a freshman. He was named all-state in Class B the last two seasons.
"As we've gone forward, Kelson in particular, has worked very hard at his craft," Roundup coach Rick Griffith said. "He's earned everything that he's gotten. He has some natural ability, don't get me wrong, but he works extremely hard in the offseason. He puts his time in. He does play golf in the spring but when golf practice is over he's in the gym shooting for an hour."
And in his 16 years as Roundup's head coach, Griffith said he's never had a player with Eiselein's size and shooting ability, saying that Eiselein's skills paired with his athletic ability are what separates him from a lot of players his size.
"He is by far the biggest player I've coached with the skill set that he has," Griffith said.
Eiselein said he was primarily a post player growing up. Right before he got into high school, Eiselein joined AAU basketball, where he said his eyes were opened to how skilled players his size were in other cities. So in his early high school summers, he began working with his father, Dan, on his ball handling skills, pull-up jumpers and expanding his range.
"Honestly, it's pretty tough," he said about changing his game. "You're used to being a post player for so long and it just doesn't happen overnight. You have to work at it and you have to fall in love with the process that comes with it."
Eiselein comes from a strong lineage of basketball players in Roundup. His grandfather, Greg, played in the 60's, where twice the Panthers were runners-up for the state title. His father, who is in his first year as Roundup's head girls basketball coach, then played alongside Griffith in the 80's.
"It's been a lot of fun," Griffith said of having played alongside Dan and coaching Kelson. "I understand where Dan comes from as a parent and a player and a coach. He's done real well in helping Kelson realize what he needs to do to be a basketball player if he chooses to be one."
"I kind of think of it as a passing of the torch, really," Eiselein said about his family history. "I can go to them and talk to them about basketball anytime that I want because they've been through it all and they have really good advice for me. It's great to have them as a resource."
Basketball appears to be the future for the younger Eiselein. He's taken a few college trips this year, and said that Rocky Mountain College and Montana Western have both offered him to play for their programs, while Montana State Billings has also expressed interest. Getting recruited was a big moment for Eiselein, who said it was nice getting a chance to be rewarded for his hard work.
"Honestly, since I've been a kid, college basketball has been a pretty big goal for me," Eiselein said.
Griffith's son, Jayce, is also a senior with Eiselein. The two have started every game together since that third game in their freshman season, and Jayce was also all-state a year ago.
The two, along with fellow seniors Cash Cota, Bret Bench, Reice McHenry and Dalton Kinn, are giving Roundup plenty of excitement, as the school is looking to get back to the Class B state tournament for the first time since the 2005-2006 season. The Panthers were 16-4 a year ago heading into the Southern B Divisional tournament, where they lost in the third-place game to Whitehall that sent the Trojans to the final weekend.
"We knew what was at stake in that game. We kind of just ran out of gas," Eiselein said about the loss to Whitehall. "Three games in 21 hours, it's hard to do. It honestly just adds motivation for this year. We're a pretty motivated group and I think we can reach our goals."
This year, the hopes are higher.
"I expect that we take another step up and get out of the divisional this year," Eiselein said. "I can't wait to just go through the process and season with this group of guys."