Walkons - A Gonzaga Tradition - IV

Brian Michaelson, former team mate of Mike Dunleavy, Jr. and leading scorer for Portland power Jesuit High School, has a year of redshirt behind him and a challenging yet promising future ahead of him. (Brian is #32, upper left, in photo)

Talking about a winning attitude. Look no further than walkon Brian Michaelson who redshirted last season as a freshman. Born and raised in Portland and living in the same general neighborhood in the Rose City all his life, his approach to basketball (and life) is as well-grounded as his roots.

As a senior, Brian was the high-scoring star of his high school, Portland powerhouse Jesuit High School. He led them to a near-miss at State and played rival power Jefferson to one and five point losses, the only school to even come remotely close to the eventual champions. The year before he was Mike Dunleavy's team mate and Jesuit won State. Both years saw Brian's team lose a mere two games (four games total) against 26 wins (52 total). What was impressive is how Brian stepped up in a leadership role after the Duke star graduated and kept the winning ways going.

The oldest of three siblings, Brian started playing basketball early, emulating the superstars who came through the Rose Garden to play the TrailBlazers. Jordan, Bird, Peyton at Oregon State, the list goes on. He'd get a ticket for a Blazers game anyway he could, and watch and learn. He's an avid sports fan (Oregon and Oregon State football, Atlanta Braves baseball…). While playing plenty of other sports up to his sophomore year, Brian began to focus solely on what he loved and what he did best: play basketball.

He has had a ton of memorable games, including titanic showdown with rival Jefferson High that filled the Portland Coliseum to its 13,000 seat capacity. Another huge game was a semi-final win against Benson Tech with 7000 fans looking on. Brian has experienced "big time" at the high school level and was justly rewarded with all kinds of awards, recognition and accolades, but it was the next level that intrigued him.

It should be said that Michaelson speaks of his good friend and former team mate Mike Dunleavy in glowing terms, not to mention with all the respect in the world. In fact, Brian and Mike bumped into each other recently and will be working out together until both have to head for college toward the end of August. It should also be noted that Brian has all good things to say about every Oregon-based guy who now plays at the college level. You see, Michaelson is proud of his city and state, and the athletes who come from there. After all, his parents are both Oregon State alums.

So here is a guy who led a powerhouse team to a superb season, just missing the 4A State Championship, a 6'4" scorer and shooter who put up some big numbers and prides himself on being a team player. Yet the only offers by D1 schools were from coaches who made it known that he was their second or third option. "If we don't get Player A, and if Player B goes elsewhere, then we'll take you." Not what winners like to hear. He admitted that it was frustrating, but if he dwelled on it, we didn't hear it.

But it just so happened that Brian had slowly come to be a keen admirer of Gonzaga. As stated before, Michaelson likes to follow local players. One such guy from Portland was Matt Santangelo. And while Brian followed Matt's career, he began to hear about the long tradition of walkons and the many successes they had. Mike Nilson, Ryan Floyd, Mark Spink… So he inquired. The Gonzaga staff was very receptive, aware of Brian's abilities since GU letters started arriving during his junior year. Thus began his journey in Spokane.

Brian's priority: to help the team win in any possible way. He knew it would be best for him to redshirt, to help bulk himself up (ten pounds of muscle and leaner now), to learn what it takes to raise his game to a much higher level, and to make it easier for himself academically. From the moment he stepped on campus, he has been treated as an equal. Redshirt…walkon…it didn't matter. If things got hard, a fellow Zag (a veteran, usually) would help him out.

The talented shooting guard knows his strengths and he knows what areas he needs to improve. A gifted shooter with good court savvy, an unselfish player, he knows strength and quickness/speed are essential at the level that Gonzaga has risen to. (Our first phone attempt he was lifting weights, our second call he was working, our third call just missed as he left to practice…)

Now Brian Michaelson is in a position to offer that same kind of help and advice to new, incoming recruits, including freshman walkons like Tyler Amaya, Colin Floyd and Patrick Names. He knows exactly what they need to do: watch the upperclassmen on the team. Follow the work ethic and example set by Zach Gourde, observe the leadership roles of Dan Dickau, Alex Hernandez or Anthony Reason. Just look out on the court and watch, learn and listen. See what kind of effort is needed--game in, game out. Watch and learn what dedication truly is and the sacrifices that are made. And always be a team player, doing everything you can to win. In a nutshell, that's what Brian will tell anyone who asks. Articulate and intelligent, Michaelson epitomizes the Gonzaga student-athlete, as does fellow walkon Kyle Bankhead.

Brian has been working this summer for a beverage distribution company. He has been to Gonzaga to practice with team mates and help at the summer camps.

When not playing hoops or working, he enjoys his family, water-skiing, the beach and listening to about every type of music ever made, from rap to Oldies to Country.

Asked who are his influences in life, he named his father and mother, and Mark Few and the GU coaching staff.

With a 3.7 GPA (Dean's List) and an eye on a business degree, don't bet against this guy. He has that positive Gonzaga attitude and the determination to back up his talents and realize his dream: to be a part of winning at the highest, most exciting level.

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