MISSOULA – The Montana men’s basketball team is well into the 2018-2019 campaign but there is a new face joining this year’s squad right away.
Fans have seen him at home games donning street clothes, starting back at the beginning of the New Year when the Grizzlies hosted Sacramento State and Portland State.
His name is Yagizhan Selcuk, a native of Istanbul, Turkey. Selcuk began the year at Towson University in Maryland, but after one semester there, he decided to leave Towson and join Montana as a mid-year transfer. He was officially announced on Monday as an addition to the team.
“It’s been great. We were just trying to figure out the living situation and then once I got cleared I got here and started practicing with the team,” Selcuk said. “I already knew the guys from last year. I came to a visit so I’ve been enjoying everything.”
Think of Selcuk as a recruit who rather than joining the team in the fall simply started working right away. He won’t be able to suit up for the Grizzlies until December after he has sat out a year due to transfer rules.
Initially, Selcuk said he chose Towson over Montana because Towson reached out to him and built a relationship first. But associate head coach Chris Cobb saw Selcuk at an AAU tournament in California and kept in touch throughout the recruiting process.
“I saw his size and skillset and really liked it,” Cobb said. “As we had a couple of posts transfer out, we needed to fill those spots and reached out to him.”
Selcuk eventually took a visit to Montana, liked it, but had essentially decided at that point that he wanted to go to Towson.
But after one semester at Towson he realized it wasn’t for him. So he looked again at Montana and wanted to come to Missoula if that option was still available.
It was and here he is.
“I didn’t want to go into a situation where I’m not going to be happy and where I’m not going to fit in,” Selcuk said. “I already knew these guys. I knew they were great people so I thought it would be worth it and I took a chance.”
He weighed the option of going home during the spring, but becoming a mid-year transfer was more appealing so he could stay active and start playing again sooner. He said the whole transfer has been an adjustment but one made easier by his new peers.
“My coaches and teammates are really helpful,” Selcuk said. “Everyone is willing to help or show you what you did wrong and some mistakes. It’s been pretty good.”
Selcuk is listed at 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds. He describes himself as a “stretch-four” who “can shoot the ball and put the ball on the floor and post up.” During his short time at Towson, he played in five games and scored nine points on 3-for-8 shooting.
“He’ll be a good piece. I think he’ll be a good player,” Cobb said. “I think he’s got some of the qualities of the good bigs we’ve had in the past. I think he’s a good scorer and has good presence around the rim. Scout team-wise, that helps. Just another competitive body who is a good basketball player.”
A big reason why they were able to get Selcuk on campus right away was his willingness to pay for school for a semester, according to Cobb. The Grizzlies didn't have a scholarship they could offer him for this semester so the coaching staff thought he'd either go home or choose a different school that could give him a scholarship right away. But Selcuk said he was open to that idea and things worked out from there. So, officially, Selcuk is a walk-on during this semester. He will be a scholarship player beginning in the fall.
With Selcuk getting a scholarship in the fall along with Montana's three incoming freshmen, the Griz have filled their four available scholarships after Ahmaad Rorie, Jamar Akoh, Michael Oguine and Bobby Moorehead exhaust their eligibility after this season.
Selcuk moved to the United States as a sophomore in high school to Utah. From there, he moved to Philadelphia and played for The Phelps School in Malvern, Pennsylvania. As a senior in high school, Selcuk averaged 13 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
And while he waits to suit up officially for the Griz, his goal is to help out however he can.
“I just try to compete with them. I get better every day individually so I can help them get better in practice and give them good competition,” Selcuk said.