BILLINGS — Billy Carlson wasn’t quite sure what sport he wanted to play in college.
The three-sport standout for Billings West, who was a finalist for the male Midland Roundtable Athlete of the Year Award, has shined in football, basketball and track and field for the Golden Bears since his freshman year.
Carlson knew he wanted to attend college and he was mulling multiple opportunities to play either basketball or football at the NAIA level.
On Monday, Carlson announced that he had made a decision with a tweet saying he had committed to Montana Western to play basketball in the Frontier Conference.
I’m excited to announce my commitment to the University of Montana Western! Huge thank you to all of my coaches and teammates for pushing me to where I am right now! Go Dawgs! @UMWesternBball @kellydarragh1 pic.twitter.com/W6j0JZ8ocd— Billy Carlson (@Billy_Carlson6) May 16, 2023
Wednesday at the annual Athlete of the Year Banquet, the 6-foot-4, 180-pound Carlson said he was thrilled to be off to Dillon to play hoops and study business administration.
Part of the reason Carlson chose to play for the Bulldogs was because of Patrick Jensen — who recently became the Bulldogs head coach after being an assistant with the program for five seasons.
“I am really excited. I really like the coach. He’s a new guy,” said Carlson. “Last week he came and attended my track meet in Bozeman and I got to visit with him. I’m excited for the opportunity there.”
Carlson, the Eastern AA Defensive Player of the Year the past two seasons, said he participates in the triple jump, hurdles and 1,600 relay for the Golden Bears' track team. Carlson said the fact that Jensen would take the time to attend the track meet in Bozeman helped him make up his mind that he wanted to play for the Bulldogs.
“For me, when coaches take that extra step and get to know you and keep in touch with me, that’s important,” Carlson said. “He kept in touch with me on track and congratulated me for being nominated (for the Athlete of the Year Award).”
Carlson, who was an all-state player in basketball this season, said he will continue to play the wing in college. He has been selected to represent Montana in the annual Midland Roundtable basketball series with Wyoming this summer.
For Carlson, his defensive efforts are just as important as his offensive play.
“Oh, I do, 100%,” said Carlson when asked if he likes playing defense. “I almost like it more than my offensive game. I find it more fun playing defense than offense. Defense creates offense.”
Carlson also had a fine career for the Bears' football team. The wide receiver and free safety, who was a team captain in both football and basketball, was an honorable mention all-conference safety.
While the interest Jensen and the Western basketball program showed Carlson helped lead him to Dillon, another important factor in Carlson’s decision to play basketball in college was his love of the game.
“I was looking and I didn’t know what I wanted to do in college, whether it be football or basketball,” he said. “But I just loved it (basketball) more. It was more of my passion.”
Carlson explained that basketball “just kind of grew on me. Going into high school, my first love was football and over time basketball became my new favorite. I realized I want to play it in college.”
Now that he’s settled on playing at Western, Carlson is focused on the Eastern AA Divisional track and field meet at the West High track on Friday and Saturday.
“I’m ready to finish off track at divisionals and hopefully state,” he said. “And, I’m ready to play in the all-star game this summer and then head off to Western.”