Following a dismal 1999-2000 campaign, then-head coach Frank McCarthy knew that the key to any future Bobcat women’s basketball success, especially in Big Sky Conference play, lay with the post position.
And, fortunately for the Bobcats, McCarthy found the answer to his quandary just three hours southwest of Bozeman in Rexburg, Idaho.
When Jessica Blake arrived at Montana State following two seasons at Ricks College, she made an immediate impact on the MSU campus, both on the court and in the classroom.
On the court, she quickly established herself as one of the most dominant posts in the Big Sky Conference, earning all-conference honorable mention accolades and all-academic honors in her first time through the Big Sky ranks.
Combined with backcourt sensation Rebecca Alvidrez, the duo produced the fourth-best turnaround in the nation at the NCAA Division I level.
The table was set for a memorable and remarkable 2001-02 campaign.
Paced by Blake in the middle and Alvidrez at the point, the Bobcats notched an 18-11 overall mark and an 11-3 league slate, which gave the team a share of the Big Sky Conference regular season title. The season was highlighted by two victories over Montana in a seven-day span, the latter in the semifinals of the Big Sky tournament.
Although MSU eventually lost a heartbreaking 53-47 decision to Weber State in the championship game, the season's most important and lasting achievement was the resurrection of a once-proud Bobcat women’s basketball program.
For her efforts, Blake was named the 2002 Big Sky Conference Most Valuable Player and was a unanimous first-team All-Big Sky pick.
She still tops the Bobcats' all-time shooting chart, hitting at a .546 clip from the field.
“Jessica had, arguably, the best set of hands to ever play at MSU and maybe in Big Sky Conference play as well,” said MSU Sports Information Director Tom Schulz. “When Jessica caught the ball on the blocks it was money. There wasn’t a prettier sight then an Alvidrez-to-Blake conversion for two points.”
And while Blake enjoyed an outstanding basketball career at MSU her work in the classroom may have proven even better than her work on the court. The Shelley, Idaho, native was a two-time Big Sky All-Academic choice, earning Second Team CoSIDA District VII Academic All-America honors as a senior. She became only the second Bobcat ever to earn an NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship, and was also named the NCAA Woman of the Year for the state of Montana after her senior season.
Years at Montana State
2002 Big Sky MVP, 2002 First Team All-Big Sky, NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship, NCAA/Montana Woman of Year, No. 1 Career FG Pctg.