WHITEFISH – Colt Idol’s seventh-grade basketball team must have been a terror for its middle school opponents.
Idol and his close friend Brock Boll, both from tiny Swan River School, were already on their way to hoops stardom. The rest of the roster wasn’t too shabby either, including a lanky kid named Brock Osweiler. Two years later, Idol was starting as a freshman for Whitefish High School and Osweiler was verbally committing to play at Gonzaga University. The 6-foot-8 Osweiler has since switched to football and is fighting for the starting quarterback position at Arizona State University.
These were Flathead’s seventh-grade all-stars. They traveled to tournaments in Spokane and flexed their Montana muscles. They played with the big boys. For Idol, a 6-foot-3 senior at Whitefish High School, it was the beginning of a training routine that has shaped his young basketball career: When the regular season is over, he teams up with the state’s top players and travels to tournaments across the West.
Last summer Idol played on a team with former Missoula Sentinel stars Andy Garland and Mark Henkel, as well as former Ronan star Moss Tanner. That squad traveled to Las Vegas for a 260-team tournament and came out with a winning record, beating all-star teams from New York City, San Francisco and Houston, among other urban locales.
Now in his final year, Idol is one of the most highly regarded players in the state. He has earned two Class A all-state selections and is on his way to a third this season. He won the conference scoring title last year, pouring in 22.1 points per game, and is the top scorer again this year at 20.2. He recently became Whitefish’s all-time scoring leader. A basketball scholarship awaits him at Montana State University.
“More than physical training or anything, those experiences are what got me here,” Idol said of his days with the all-star teams.
Most importantly to Idol, his Bulldogs are riding an 11-game winning streak. They are hoping for a third straight state tournament berth and a chance to play in the title game. Their record is 13-4 overall and 7-2 in the conference. During the winning streak, the Bulldogs have raised their team scoring average to 62 points per game, tops in the conference.
Opponents have thrown a variety of defensive formations at Idol this year. He has learned to better recognize the changing schemes and distribute the ball accordingly. This is largely why his scoring average is down slightly this year, while the offense as a whole is more balanced. Helping to carry the load are seniors Aaron Tkachyk and Josh Backer. Tkachyk is averaging 11.7 points and Backer is pulling down a team-high 5.9 rebounds.
While offensive balance has been a catalyst to the winning streak, the most vital key has been the team’s defense. Coach Eric Stang has preached the virtues of relentless defense all year, and Idol said the boys have stepped up and answered the coach’s calls after starting the season 2-4. They haven’t lost since.
Idol is a lefty with a pretty release on his jump shot. He’s one of the top three-point shooters in the conference, but he’s at his best when he drives to the basket and uses his strength to draw fouls. He shoots 81 percent from the line. A true shooting guard, Idol is fast, he can leap and he moves with understated fluidity on the court. At 205 pounds, he has a sturdy build.
Glacier High’s Ben Cutler, the top scorer in Class AA at nearly 25 points per game, said Idol changes his team’s defensive game plan. Idol must be accounted for at all times and when gets the ball, he’s incredibly hard to stop one-on-one. Cutler compares him to Helena Capital’s Matt Miller, one of the most explosive athletes in the state in both basketball and football.
“He can overpower you,” Cutler said. “Just the fact that he has a big body frame, but he’s also quick and agile and athletic.”
Idol’s athleticism isn’t limited to the hardwood. As the reigning state champion in the high jump, he has received track scholarship offers from numerous Division-I schools, including several from the Pac-10. A few Ivy League schools such as Harvard have taken note of his 3.9 grade point average and made offers as well.
His brother Cody plays basketball at the University of Great Falls and his father Dick, a renowned sculptor, played football at North Carolina State.
Last year, Idol won the state high jump with a leap of 6 feet 8 ¼ inches, more than six inches better than the second-place finisher. The Class A record is 6 feet 10 and the all-class record is 7 feet 1. Considering Idol has increased his best jump by four inches each year, the record appears to be within reach this spring.
But basketball is his love, even if the college offers have been fewer. Despite interest from schools such as Colgate and Whitworth, Idol narrowed down his choices to Carroll College and MSU. He is a Montana boy, after all. He couldn’t resist the opportunity to play Division-I and verbally committed to MSU in December.
There’s plenty to do before college, however. As has been the case the past few years, the Northwestern A field is competitive and balanced. A third straight state tournament appearance for the Bulldogs is certainly not a lock with the likes of Columbia Falls and Polson looming. The divisional tournament will be held at Glacier High School on Feb. 26-28.
Idol was dominant at last year’s divisional tourney. He led all scorers with an average of 26.5 points per game, including 28 in the decisive challenge game against Columbia Falls. That victory earned the Bulldogs a trip to state.
“In our conference, I honestly believe anybody can beat anybody on a given day,” Idol said.
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