Just two months ago, Gonzaga’s three-year student manager Brian Pete was in the Bulldogs’ locker room picking up dirty uniforms after a game to run through the wash.
Now he has his own jersey to toss in the hamper.
The manager-turned-player was added to Gonzaga’s roster earlier this season to help full holes left vacant by injuries. He is part of the “red squad,” a group of reserves primarily used to run drills during practice.
Only when Gonzaga’s top players have built a comfortable lead do Pete and the rest of the red squad take over, usually in the final minutes of a landslide.
The Portland native has found some minutes on the court playing for the Zags, who have thrown down the hammer in conference play this season. He had a chance to play a few times before the New Year, beginning on Dec. 28 against Pacific. He played for only 2 minutes and never touched the ball.
Two days later, Pete was sent out in the final 3 minutes of Gonzaga’s 49-point blowout of Santa Clara. He got his hands on the ball and graced the stat sheet with a rebound, but he never got a good look.
In Thursday night’s 103-57 rout of Portland, Pete’s hometown team, he got another chance to find the net.
Pete was put in the middle of the game with less than 3 minutes left. He finally got his hands on the ball with a minute left and went up for his first shot.
Less than 10 seconds later, Pete had the ball again and drove inside for a layup, but he was blocked by Portland’s D’Marques Tyson.
He tried one more time when Jeremy Jones drove the ball inside and chucked it out to Pete, who reached back and let the ball fly on a short jumper.
“The last one was kind of like, ‘All right, if this one doesn’t go in, we’re done for the night,’ ” Pete said.
Third time’s the charm – it went in.
Of all 103 points, it seemed like those were the only two that mattered. The Kennel erupted and the Zags on the bench jumped up from their seats and cheered. Their former manager, who hid in the background, was now in the spotlight, and it was all they could do to stay put on the sidelines.
The shot lifted Gonzaga over the 100-point mark. As soon as the buzzer sounded, the entire bench rushed out to the court and swarmed Pete, congratulating him on his long-awaited bucket.
“That’s my guy,” Gonzaga starting guard Silas Melson said. “I’m really proud of Pete, just to see him out there getting his minutes, getting his shots.”
When asked about Pete’s first basket after the game, starting forward Johnathan Williams looked back at Pete and smiled.
“I mean, he got three tries. If you get three tries, one of them has got to go in,” Williams joked.
Pete will likely have a few more opportunities to add to his stats this season, but it might be a while before he gets back on the court.
On Thursday, head coach Mark Few described Gonzaga’s next batch of opponents as the “upper part of the league.”
The Zags are in San Francisco on Saturday to take on the Dons and will be back in the Kennel on Thursday to face Saint Mary’s, a battle that will likely be for the top spot in the West Coast Conference.
Pete might not be back on the court until later in the month when the Zags have rematches against Santa Clara and Portland. Until then, he’ll stay on the sidelines with the rest of the reserves.
He hasn’t completely abandoned the responsibilities he had as a manager. Between practices and games, Pete is still helping to lead the handful of team managers in their day-to-day duties, including handling game tapes for the scouting reports, preparing equipment and doing laundry. But his responsibilities no longer extend to the court, such as bringing out water and setting up stools during timeouts.
Although he’s enjoyed being part of that side of Gonzaga basketball over the years, nothing quite matches up to setting off a roar in the Kennel with just a flip of his wrist.
“It was a good feeling,” he said. “That’s the kind of atmosphere you want.”