Basketball at Dahlberg Arena on Jan. 18, 2020.

When the men’s basketball team traveled to Seattle to take on the University of Washington, the odds were stacked against it. UW was ranked 25th in the nation and the student section was packed to the brim. But for senior guard Kendal Manuel, one of the most difficult obstacles was UW’s Adidas basketballs. 

“That was terrible,” Manuel said about using UW’s basketballs. “I wish that the condition of the basketballs was the same [at all schools].” 

NBA players use Spalding basketballs, NFL players use Wilson footballs and MLB players use Rawling baseballs at every game. But in college sports, uniformity among equipment brands doesn’t exist.  

Every ball used at NCAA games should be spherical and must have “a deeply pebbled leather or composite cover” and the “traditionally shaped eight panels,” according to the NCAA rulebook. Though the NCAA doesn’t permit teams to use triangular-shaped balls, it doesn’t regulate what ball brand can be used, except during post-season tournaments. Basketballs can have different stitching patterns or groove shapes, depending on the brand. 

Along with the Under Armor and Adidas basketballs, opposing teams may also use Spalding, Nike and Wilson basketballs.

Head coach Travis DeCuire said he plans ahead when the Griz travel to different schools regardless of basketball brand changes.

“We try to get a little extra time shooting [at different gyms],” DeCuire said. “If you get up enough shots and get enough reps with a ball, you should be able to adjust.”

So far in the 2019-20 season, UM has earned an 11-5 record when the team uses Wilson basketballs. In all five games in which the Griz played with a different basketball brand, the team lost.

Those five games were all on the road against Oregon, Washington, Stanford, Arkansas and New Mexico. These teams have a combined record of 76-31. 

During Montana’s game against UW, The Griz only made a third of their shot attempts, while UW converted on around 45% of its shots. Manuel scored 15 points during the game, but only made just over 35% of his shots. Manuel has made an average 41% of his shots during the 2019-20 season.

UM uses Wilson basketballs in its games, so Washington was the first team UM played this year that used Adidas basketballs. Manuel’s claim that the basketball’s brand hurt his performance is fathomable. 

“Sometimes that does have an effect on a player,” DeCuire regarding the differing of basketball brands. 

Senior UM guard Sayeed Pridgett’s and senior forward Jared Samuelson’s views on how basketball brands affect their performances differ from Manuel’s.

“Some schools use Under Armor and some schools are Adidas, but it’s not that much of a difference to me, honestly,” said Pridgett. 

“I have a preference, but every basketball that I pick up — it’s gonna be the same thing and its gonna have the same kind of feel. You just have to shoot and get used to it,” Samuelson said. 

Whether or not a non-Wilson basketball is kryptonite to the UM basketball team, it will more than likely use Wilson basketballs in its games going forward. Most Big Sky schools use Wilson basketballs, and so does the Big Sky and NCAA Tournament.

Montana’s next game will be against Eastern Washington on Feb. 6.