UMW Bulldogs place two NAIA All-Americans

M.P. Regan
Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Confirmed as standouts on the league level with their All-Frontier Conference selections earlier this month, two University of Montana Western Bulldogs gained recognition last week as outstanding basketball players on a national scale.

Montana Western junior Brynley Fitzgerald earned a spot on the third team All-American squad announced by the NAIA last week, when UMW’s Jalen Hodges secured an Honorable Mention designation for his play during the 2020-21 season.

A junior who can score from the outside or in the paint with equal efficiency, Fitzgerald led the Frontier Conference in point production, notching 422 points while hitting 44.3 percent of her shots from the field and 37.5 percent of her efforts from beyond the arc.

“Brynley really became a really fine scorer this year,” said UMW Women’s Basketball Head Coach Lindsey Woolley of Fitzgerald, who poured in 37 points in one January road game against eventual conference champs Carroll College.

A graduate of Beaverhead County High School in Dillon, the powerful, 5-foot-11-inch forward also used her superior size and athleticism and understanding of the game to earn a lot of chances at the free throw line, where she hit 83 percent of her attempts.

A forward out of Georgia, Hodges specialized in gaining and converting high-percentage shots, canning 54.6 percent of his field goal attempts this past season while averaging 18.1 points per game.

“He’s a guy who had a breakout year after not playing much last year,” said UMW Men’s Basketball Head Coach Mike Larsen of Hodges, a transfer from Florida Tech.

The 6-foot-4-inch Hodges used his power and positioning to set up in the low blocks for short buckets, hitting 10 of 13 field-goal attempts in one game this season against Montana State University-Northern.

Though a senior, Hodges can return to play again next season for UMW, with the NAIA granting players another year of eligibility due to the disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic.