When the news broke Wednesday night that Martin Breunig signed a professional contract with a team in Germany, most thought he would be thrilled to be heading back to his native country. Well, it didn't exactly go that way.
It's not that Breunig wasn't affected by his burgeoning basketball career, but he wasn't on the level of say, his mom.
"It’s not even comparable," the former Griz forward said of the difference between the two reactions.
There was also at least one other person animated enough to reach out to Breunig. It was reported that former Montana center Brian Qvale, coming off the best performance of his five-year professional career, texted Breunig to congratulate him and ask that he take it easy on Qvale next season.
"He’s incredibly athletic and strong. I think he’s going to do really well," said Qvale in a mini scouting report of Breunig.
When Breunig agreed to terms with MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg, it brought him into the BBL, which earlier this year named Qvale its best center. Despite the seemingly long odds of it happening, it's possible that Qvale and Breunig could have a third Griz alum in the league depending on what happens with Will Cherry's contract situation.
Cherry's agent, Calvin Andrews, said in a message to the Missoulian that nothing has been decided regarding Cherry's future and won't be until later this summer.
Back in Germany with EWE Baskets Oldenburg, Qvale averaged 15 points, a block and a shade over six rebounds per game. But Griz fans may not recognize the guy who once scored 24 points and pulled down 18 rebounds in a win over Oregon State more than five years ago.
Qvale arrived on campus in Missoula in 2007 after choosing the Grizzlies over programs from larger conferences and promptly led the team with a block and a half per game. By the time he was a senior Qvale scored at the rim as efficiently as anyone in the nation and protected it better than any shot blocker in the history of the Big Sky. He rejected a conference record 93 shots that season, vaulting himself from third to first on the Grizzlies' all-time blocked shots list in the process.
"It’s much different than when I played at Montana. A lot of screen and rolls," Qvale said. "I get a lot of baskets off screen and rolls. More jump shots. I’ve slowly added a 3-pointer to my game and I’ve just tried to evolve all around."
It was partially influenced by his time with the Charlotte Hornets, but also by the more free-flowing, skill-basked game in Germany. It's worked and it's increased the likelihood that Breunig and Qvale will meet head to head when their teams take the court.
Breunig was at his best on the block at Montana, but said Ludwigsburg will involve him in their offense in a similar way to how Qvale is used. He will be asked to take advantage of his athleticism and improve his jump shot to maximize his pick-and-roll potential.
It'll be nothing new for the two when they do finally compete. Qvale and his family return to Missoula every summer. He makes his way to the Adams Center to play pick up ball with current players, playing with and against Breunig.
A friendship between the two big men has since developed. Breunig texted Qvale after he was named to the BBL first-team and awarded as the league's most efficient player. Qvale did the same shortly after Breunig signed his contract.
"He asked me some questions but he also -- I mean he’s from Germany," Qvale said. "He understands the league, the city, the teams. I’ve tried to help him out in any way I can."
That advice didn't, however, include a sales pitch though Breunig came close to teaming up with Qvale. Oldenburg was one of the eight teams to offer Breunig and one of three to make his final cut.
"It’s sad that it didn’t work out with his team, but I think that I made the right decision," Breunig said.
So they will meet on the German courts sometime this winter. Two prolific Montana posts trying to push their careers in the same direction. Breunig said it was important to join a team likely to be showcased in the Eurocup. Qvale, entering a two-year contract with a player option, is leaving his options open and won't rule out another chance in the NBA.
"My wife and I are having another baby in November and we’re very comfortable with the team and the city and we wanted to go back there," Qvale said. "But after that who knows. If the next season goes well then yes I still plan to keep moving up and up and up throughout my whole career."