MISSOULA, Mont. -

The Montana Grizzly men's basketball team has struggled to get going early on in conference play. But with plenty of young talent on the squad, the Griz have a bright future in front of them.

Mario Dunn Jr. has become a household name for Grizzly basketball fans this season. The freshman is averaging 20 minutes a contest, and is leading the team in steals.

"Just love his consistency of effort and focus," said UM head basketball coach Wayne Tinkle. "I'll be behind him in a film session talking and he will turn completely around and look me in the eye. That's the kind of kid he is, he gives us nothing but a 100 percent 100 percent of the time. He's given us a lot of positive production early on in his career already."

The Griz are currently 1-3 in conference play, but have lots of young talent such as Dunn who keeps the team fresh and provides a spark off the bench.

"I think that him getting these minutes now are going to prepare him for next year, even down the road this year you are going to see that we are going to need him a lot," said Griz guard Keron Deshields.

"It feels good to actually know that I can do so much as a freshman right now and I'm not even at my peak right now," said Dunn.

comparisons to Will Cherry have Dunn working hard around the clock knowing that the sky is the limit for this young point guard.

"I think he an Oakland kid man. You know we already had an Oakland kid from here before," said Deshields. "Will Cherry had a great career and I think he going to follow up and have a great career as well."

"Well I kind of knew I was going to get comparisons to Will," said Dunn. "I'm just trying to come in and make my own legacy you know me and Will are compared just because of our backgrounds and what we've done but I'm just my own person and going to come in here and try to make a name for myself."

Mentors such as Keron Deshields and Kareem Jamar have helped polish Dunn's game this season.

"Getting a lot more feel for the point guard position playing with more poise and comfort at that position you know especially getting vocal," said Dunn. "That was a real big problem I had when I first got here."

"Most important thing, the biggest competition is your bench, is yourselves," said Deshields. "Without them competing with us every day at practice we're nothing."

After back-to-back championships the guard from Oakland knew that he wanted nothing less then help make it a three-peat.

"You know you got guys that have won back-to-back championships, that's the biggest they've done in school history so just getting advice from those guys day in and day out, nothing better," said Dunn. "Another Big Sky championship man, I'm trying to get my first but help the team get their third in a row."

The Griz are hosting a two game home stretch against top conference foes Northern Colorado and North Dakota this week.