Montana State looks to build on recruiting success in Europe

By Parker Gabriel Chronicle Sports Writer

Virtually every Division I basketball coach logs extensive travel in July.

Montana State assistant Chris Haslam will roam further than most.

The fifth-year Bobcats assistant is spending the first open July evaluation period in Los Angeles, will be stateside again next week and then spend the final stretch of the month in Estonia at the U18 European Championships, head coach Brian Fish confirmed to the Chronicle.

The international travel is normal to the longest-tenured member of MSU’s coaching staff and Southport, England native.

It has also paid dividends for MSU.

It was at the same U18 tournament in 2014 that Haslam first saw Harald Frey, who is now entering his sophomore year at point guard for MSU. Haslam saw Frey again in Frey’s native Norway and then a final time at a tournament in Las Vegas in the summer of 2015 before Frey and his father took an official visit in September of that year.

“It takes a commitment from our boosters to raise enough money to send us over there, so a lot of pieces go into it,” Fish said. “Then, it’s expensive to bring a player and his parents over for an official visit. You have to commit to it.”

Frey, of course, earned Big Sky Freshman of the Year honors in 2016-17 by playing more than 33 minutes per game, averaging about 13 points and shooting nearly 46 percent from 3-point range during conference play.

“We’ve started to have success with our international kids and that helps grab attention from more kids overseas because they see how guys are in our program,” Fish said. “The other thing is, and I get this, is that coaches aren’t really going to let those kids come over and play at your school unless you’re going over there and seeing their culture and their environment.”

Haslam traveled to Australia last summer and, while MSU didn’t sign a player from the country, it’s an area the coaching staff thinks it can take advantage of in some years. MSU did, however, sign Helsinki, Finland native and incoming freshman point guard Lassi Nikkarinen.

Haslam played professionally for 13 years in Greece, Italy, Germany Belgium, Czech Republic and in his home country.

“That can put you in a little smaller pond to recruit players from because of the connections that Chris has,” Fish said. “Hopefully that continues for us.”

It also can lead to tips on players that may fit what MSU is looking for, meaning Haslam and the Bobcats aren’t flying blind at a large tournament like the U18s.

“I don’t want to limit Chris and say he’s our international recruiter because that would be pigeonholing him as a recruiter,” Fish said. “He gets players from the States and I would be comfortable sending Eric Jackson overseas or Luke Fennelly as we break him in. I think if you’re a good recruiter, you’re a good recruiter wherever you go.”

Jack Benoit