Oscar Lopez

Oscar Lopez Jr., right, plays during a game for his former school, DePaul.

MISSOULA — Adding size and versatility on the wing is a priority for Montana men's basketball coach Travis DeCuire, and he has addressed the issue with the Grizzlies' newest commitment, Oscar Lopez Jr.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound combo wing announced his commitment to the Grizzlies Monday on Twitter. He is the fourth commitment for the Grizzlies this offseason joining Scott Blakney, Jonathan Braggs and Lonnell Martin Jr. 

Lopez isn't a stranger to the Grizzlies program, either. He was teammates with current Montana guard Josh Vazquez at Bishop Montgomery High School in southern California.

Being from southern California also put Lopez near a few other current Grizzlies, as he has competed against Derrick Carter-Hollinger and Kyle Owens in the past.

That, plus the fact the Griz coaching staff has had Lopez on its radar before, played a decent role in Lopez choosing Montana.

Getting the Grizzlies back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since back-to-back trips in 2017-18 and 2018-19 is the goal.

"I felt that connection with them because they would show me past guys who would play like me or I play like them and they would tell me what I bring to the program and I was just so happy because all my boys are there too so we can really do this again too and make the NCAA tourney," Lopez told the Missoulian and 406mtsports.com during a Tuesday phone interview. "That's what led me to my decision to come to Montana."

Lopez played sparingly the past two seasons in the Big East at DePaul. He played just 21 games as a freshman in 2019-20 when he averaged 8.6 minutes per game and took just 29 shots from the field. Lopez played just four games in 2020-21 and averaged a modest 8.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game while shooting an efficient 62% from the field before his season was cut off due to a knee injuries.

As for his fit with the Grizzlies, who most notably have a depth of guards like Cameron Parker, Brandon Whitney, Robby Beasley and Vazquez who all got at least 25 minutes per game last season, Lopez sees himself as an enforcer type on the wing.

He wants to be the first to loose balls and fight on the perimeter as one of the few prototypical wings on the roster.

That type of wing, coincidentally, is pretty close to the style of player DeCuire hinted that his team needed.

"That's what I love to do man," Lopez said. "I love distributing the ball, rebounding, just being excited on the court because I'm very passionate in everything I do. It comes from the heart. Coming in, my role, I just want to win games and be there for my teammates. That extra pass, diving on the floor, just being that enforcer on the team." 

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