Walk-on happy with his role

When it was announced over the summer that Bret Brielmaier was walking on at Arizona few really took notice. Sure it is always good to bring in quality walk-ons, but just how much could a 6-6 big man with offers to small schools really do? Even if he was a player who could contribute, it surely wouldn't happen as a true freshman.

Then something funny happened. Arizona's once deep front line took some hits. The Wildcats decided to redshirt Kirk Walters and Mohamed Tangara got hurt. Suddenly Brielmaier found himself as the Cats fourth post player.

Brielmaier has seen first half action the past few games, including quality minutes against ranked foes Mississippi State and Marquette. With foul trouble plaguing Channing Frye and Isaiah Fox, Lute Olson has not hesitated to go with the true freshman.

"I guess it is just the confidence that the coaches have in me to go in and do the little things, to play defense," said Brielmaier. "I think that is what gets me into the game."

The Cats think so highly of the youngster that they feel he is worthy of the unused scholarship that was originally slated for Charles Okwandu.

"We're going to put him on scholarship for the second semester," Lute Olson said. "He's impressed everybody, coaches and players alike, with his play. He knows his role and knows what his job is, and the job is to go in and defend like crazy and not make mistakes."

Brielmaier is fairly athletic. Although he is better as a post player, he can knock down outside shots if needed. He won't wow you with his athleticism, but he isn't a plodder either. Brielmaier's family has some athletes in it. His brother is an offensive linemen and the rest of his family stays active.

Bret himself earned 12 varsity letters in high school, playing football and competing in track.

The Wildcats didn't bring Brielmaier in because of athleticism, the brought him in because of his work ethic and toughness. "Bret works very, very hard," Olson explained. "He is very sound fundamentally. He is very bright. He does a really good job. There isn't a point of the game where I wouldn't feel comfortable with him because he's not going to make silly mistakes. He checks out well on the glass. He'll work very hard defensively. Offensively, he knows his role."

Brielmaier's high school resume is impressive. He was Minnesota's Class A Player of the Year as a senior when he averaged 20. 5 points, 13.4 rebounds and 3.4 blocked shots per game. He was voted by the AP as a second team All-State player.

He was a four-time all-conference and all-city selection and was twice named to the Minnesota all-state tournament team. In his four-year varsity career, Loyola posted a 101-18 (.849) record with four state tournament appearances and a state title his junior year. He graduated as the state' fifth best all-time rebounder, with 1,136 boards.

Despite the great credentials, bigger programs did not come calling. He had offers from the likes of Loyola Marymount and Northern Arizona, but he had his eyes on a bigger program. His coaches got in contact with the Wildcat staff and after watching tape they offered him a spot on the team if he wanted to pay his own way.

"I could have gone to some mid-major schools but I figured that I would take the shot at the top-10 program," Brielmaier said. "The coaches gave me the confidence that if I worked hard and came in here prepared there is a chance I could play."

He has certainly shown that he could have played quite a bit at a small school, but he loves being a role player at Arizona. While he may not be seeing a ton of time, he is part of a top-notch program and really enjoying the experience.

"I love it here," Brielmaier said. "The people are great, the community supports us. I like it here, this is a great place to be."

Brielmaier is only seeing the floor because of foul trouble and the injury to Tangara. While it took some negative situations to put Brielmaier on the floor, he has no regrets about seeing action. To him it is an opportunity to make a difference.

"I'm just going in there when they need me whether there is foul trouble or injury," Brielmaier said. "I am going to go in there and do the best I can."


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