Subscribe for 17¢ / day

If the guy in front of you in line this summer is 7 feet tall and ordering a burrito for lunch, you've probably just run into former Griz star Brian Qvale on break from playing professional basketball in Europe.

The Grizzlies' dominant center from 2007-11 still makes his offseason home in Missoula, his oasis for Tex-Mex cuisine unavailable the rest of the year.

"We go directly to Taco del Sol," laughed Qvale about his annual first stop in the Garden City.

Qvale (pronounced Qwa-lee) is a little late to his offseason escape this summer following his sixth year abroad. He was playing in the championship series of the Basketball Bundesliga, the top professional league in Germany. It almost made him miss this week's second annual "Celebrity Night in Missoula," a benefit for the Destination Missoula Sports Commission at the new Fort Missoula Regional Park on Wednesday.

Running from 5:30 to 9 p.m., the event will feature free youth athletic clinics and a meet-and-greet session with a long list of Montana's most recognizable sports figures.

Qvale and recently retired Lady Griz head coach Robin Selvig will handle the basketball portion, where the 6-foot-11 center can impart the knowledge he's gained playing college and pro ball. Qvale, 28, has suited up for franchises in Turkey, Belgium and Germany, as well as a stint in 2015 with the Charlotte Hornets' NBA summer league squad.

The past two years with German EWE Baskets Oldenburg have been his most fruitful though.

Qvale, a first-team All-Big Sky Conference pick and the league's defensive player of the year in 2011 as a Griz, signed with the German team in the summer of 2015 and quickly made his presence known. That season he won the league's Most Effective Player award, based on player efficiency statistics, by averaging 15 points and about six rebounds per game.

He followed that up with 14 and 6.5 per game in his second year in Oldenburg, a city of about 160,000 in the northwest section of the country, to earn himself a contract with a new franchise for next winter.

But with details not finalized, Qvale is hesitant to say where and with whom, just that he's continuing to progress in pro basketball in Europe.

"A new country, but I can't tell you. I want to, but I can't until July," he hinted.


Germany has been good to the Qvale family, which welcomed its fourth member late last year. He and his wife Misty -- herself a former Lady Griz, back then Misty Atkinson -- now have two children, a 3 1/2-year-old daughter and a 7-month-old son. The native of Williston, North Dakota, said Oldenburg is their favorite place they've been in his tour-de-Europe that has included playing in more than a dozen countries.

Both his children were born in Germany and his oldest is already fluent in the local language. 

"I speak just enough to get by, but she can understand everything," he said. "By the end of (her second year in German preschool), she was my little translator."

Qvale's goal has always been to make basketball a career and he's learned to adapt to the European style of play to make that a reality for the past six years. First it was the physicality in the Turkish Basketball League, then the quick run-and-gun of the guard-oriented Belgian League.

Germany fit his mold more, a mix of both that allowed him to show off his post moves by the basket in an environment of heavy ball movement and fast passes.

"It's extremely different," Qvale said of the style of play versus what Americans see in the NBA. "Almost every possession, I'm running down from the block, setting one or two ball screens and rolling. It's constantly moving."

It was in Germany too that he ran into a familiar face for Griz fans last season. On the way to his team's Deutscher Basketball Vizemeister recognition -- the league's runner-up award -- Qvale's EWE Baskets had to beat MHP RIESEN Ludwigsburg and their power forward Martin Breunig.

Breunig, of course, was Montana's two-time unanimous All-Big Sky selection in 2015 and '16, who played his first year of pro ball last season. Breunig is also a German native.

Qvale said he loves his time back in the States each summer, but he's looking forward to adding to his impressive list of passport stamps, too. The most exciting part is seeing where he might end up next.

"I just want to continue to move up the best that I can," he said. "If I can continue to play at a high level I'll continue playing. It's been a fun ride so far."

That is as long as there's an occasional pit stop for tacos along the way.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

AJ Mazzolini can be reached by email at or on Twitter @ajmazzolini.

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.