CHURCHILL – Caleb Bellach long knew where he wanted to play college basketball.
In July, Montana State coach Brian Fish made Bellach’s dream a possibility.
“It was awesome (to receive a scholarship offer from Montana State),” Bellach said. “They first reached out to me this spring after an AAU tournament. I was really excited. Then around the 4th of July, I went for an unofficial visit and played with the guys. That was the first time coach Fish saw me play live. I think I kind of surprised him a little bit, and that’s when it started to heat up. A little later, he gave me an offer I couldn’t pass up.”
Bellach, who is entering his senior season at Manhattan Christian High School, said he grew up watching and cheering on the Bobcats and going to their camps, so he’s “always wanted to be a Bobcat.” He can’t make that dream a reality until the signing period in November, but Bellach announced his intentions Wednesday, committing to continue his basketball career at Montana State in the fall of 2019.
The timing couldn’t be more perfect for Bellach, who wanted his commitment solidified before the start of his senior season. Manhattan Christian, which is coached by Bellach’s father, Jeff, has finished second at the Class C state tournament the past two seasons, losing to Arlee in the championship both years.
“I said, ‘Dad, by the time next season comes around, I want to be committed so I can focus on the school season,’” the younger Bellach said. “Me and my teammates, Sam Leep and Caidin Hill, we’ve been in the gym together. We want to win the state championship. We don’t want to lose anymore.”
Caleb Bellach will play a big part in Manhattan Christian’s success this winter. The 6-foot-5 forward will likely move his game closer to the basket after excelling on the perimeter the past two seasons. He moved into the Eagles’ starting lineup as a sophomore and has earned all-state honors each of the past two seasons. Last year, Bellach averaged 20.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.3 steals per game.
Between strong showings on the Class C courts and even better performances on the AAU circuit this spring, Bellach’s recruitment ramped up. He drew interest from Division II programs from around the region, including MSU Billings and Northern State in South Dakota, where former MSU Billings coach Jamie Stevens is now an assistant. Montana Tech, where Jeff Bellach starred in the late 1990s and was recently inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame, was among a handful of others who also extended offers.
Montana State, though, provided Bellach with his first Division I scholarship offer.
“It was a bit overwhelming. I had a lot of options and met a lot of great people through the process,” Bellach said. “It’s been really hard to have to call some coaches and say I’m not coming to their school, because we’ve developed some good relationships and friendships. They’ve all been happy and supportive. It was a fun process.”
When Bellach signs in November, he’ll become the first Montana high schooler to sign with the Bobcats since Fish’s arrival prior to the 2014-15 season. Westby-Grenora’s Cooper Olson walked on in 2015, and MSU added Ladan Ricketts, a Livingston native, this offseason. Ricketts is transferring to the Bobcats after spending the past two seasons at Sheridan (Wyo.) College.
Bellach can’t officially sign with Montana State until the early signing period, which runs Nov. 14-21.