MISSOULA, Mont. - The Montana boys' basketball Gatorade Player of the Year award was released Friday morning and for the fourth time in history the winner was a Hellgate Knight, which is now the most of any school in the Treasure State.
The honor was bestowed upon Tres Tinkle following his terrific junior season in Missoula.
"Well you know it was really exciting getting that email last night," said Hellgate head coach Jeff Hays on Friday. "I got up this morning to check the internet and make sure that it had been verified and confirmed before I told him."
"Coach Hays called my dad last night but they tried to keep it low key," said Tinkle. "I didn't know, because coach Hays wanted to tell me this morning so he invited me to his room and told me I was Gatorade Player of the Year and we both shared a big smile and gave each other a hug."
The 6-foot-6, 205-pound junior guard and forward averaged 21.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.8 steals per game this past season and was named to the all-state squad for a second consecutive season.
"It's really impressive because there are not many juniors that win this award; he still has another year to get better," said Hays.
"There are some big names like Josh Huestis, Danny Robison and all of those guys," said Tinkle. "So to be right there with them is a big accomplishment and also with all the great players in the state, I'm just lucky to be the Gatorade Player of the Year."
Tinkle led Hellgate (19-5) to the Class AA state title game for a second straight season, but unlike his sophomore season the Knights came up short in the championship to Helena Capital, losing by a final score of 90-78.
The award also recognizes the work of athletes off the court. Tinkle maintains a 3.89 GPA in the classroom, is a member of the National Honor Society and his school's Link Crew leadership program. He has also volunteered locally at the Missoula Food Bank and as a youth basketball instructor.
"What makes it fun is he's a great player but he's a great kid and a great person," said Hays. "His teammates are excited for him and a couple of them made comments that he could have won it last year. And I think if he wasn't such a great player and person, they wouldn't be as excited for him."
Of course this isn't the first Gatorade honor for the Tinkle family; Tres' oldest sister Joslyn won the award twice in her prep career at Missoula Big Sky.
"It's awesome. I remember I talked to her when I was in like 6th grade or so, whenever she won her second one. And I said if I win it then we get to drink a Gatorade together and we were just messing around with each other," recalls the youngest of three siblings. "Sure enough when I found out this morning it was the first thing she said to me because she remembered that, which put a smile on my face. So when she gets home we can share a couple Gatorades."
There's no reason to think Tinkle can't win the award again next season as a senior at Hellgate.