Walk-on loves his role

West Point didn't get him and neither did ASU, but both could have. Instead Michael Schwertley came to the University of Arizona because he wanted to learn from the best, Lute Olson. He knew playing time might be limited being a walk-on, but that wasn't the only challenge for Schwertley. The former Brophy Prep center would have to learn to play on the wing. The transition from high school to college basketball is a big one, and so is learning to play an entirely different position.

The proximity of Tucson to Phoenix was an important factor in Schwertley's choice to play basketball at the University of Arizona. He has a large family in Phoenix. His mother has 11 brothers and sisters in the area, and his dad, former NBA star Truck Robinson, also lives in Phoenix.

Schwertley would get more playing time if he'd gone elsewhere, but he chose to walk on to the Arizona program. His job is as a role player, most often on the scout team.

"I may be Brian Bracey for a day," Schwertley said referring to the Oregon power forward he'd be playing while on the UA scout team preparing for the Ducks.

On another day he might be the guy who is likely to drain the three-pointer. The next week, he could be the guy who drives to the hoop. The byproduct of Schwertley's role is that his game improves, but the improvement doesn't come without dedication and hard work. He has no guarantees. He credits the coaching staff with a lot of his improvement, but was very quick to point out that playing with Richard Jefferson and Gilbert Arenas didn't hurt a thing.

When asked what it was like to be a part of the Arizona basketball program, Schwertley expressed tremendous respect for the coaching staff as well as his teammates. On road trips he roomed with Loren Woods, and felt Woods had a lot of experience to share. He considers Woods a very positive influence on him in many ways. They had similar experiences in that each had suffered back injuries. Woods had to sit out after he transferred into the Arizona program, and Schwertley took a redshirt year.

It's difficult to get Schwertley to talk about himself. He prefers to talk about his teammates and the team as a whole. When asked what his biggest contribution to the team was, he said his job "was to push and encourage his teammates to work harder, to help everyone stay focused."

Since Arizona is known for great guard play, I asked if he thought the people in Tucson would be seeing an inside/outside game or a guard orientated team during the upcoming season. It's very clear that Schwertley is glad he doesn't make those decisions. He feels that there is so much talent at Arizona this year that Lute Olson can do just about what he wants with the players he has.

Schwertley speaks highly of all five of the freshmen coming into the program, but also had great things to say about the returning players. He mentioned the improvement made by Ricky Anderson, and believes Anderson and Luke Walton will both have excellent seasons.

"People will be surprised at what Ricky and Luke contribute this year," says Schwertley.

When Coach Lute Olson's name was mentioned, it was obvious that Schwertley has the utmost respect for Olson both as a coach and as a person. Schwertley quickly pointed out that Olson is very good with the X's and O's, but said Olson's approach to family reinforces the same value system that Schwertley feels is so important in his life.

Toward the end of our conversation, I asked Schwertley what it was like to step onto the court at McKale for the first time in front of a sell out crowd. He said he didn't have to wait for a game to realize just how much the citizens in Tucson embraced the team. He became very aware of that during the Red/Blue scrimmage.

Schwertley was recruited by other Division I schools. In fact, he could have chosen to attend West Point.

"I visited the academy, and I liked it there."

ASU came calling too. His mom worked there, and he had spent a lot of time on campus visiting her and waiting for her to get off work. Two people had a significant influence on his decision to come the UA, Mike Bibby and Richard Jefferson.

"I played against Richard in high school. I was in the stands when Mike Bibby scored 30 points in a game against my high school."

In closing, I asked Schwertley what he sees himself doing after he leaves the University of Arizona. He's interested in focusing his studies on English, and would like to go back to Brophy Prep as a teacher.

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