Jodi Rave: Basketball standout graduates from UM

"Mike Chavez recently sat in the University of Montana's student center and greeted a Grizzly basketball player who passed by. After the two said hello, Chavez described him as a former teammate. In that brief moment, it was clear, Chavez was moving on.

On Saturday, he'll don a cap and gown and walk across a stage to receive the diploma he earned during the past five years at the University of Montana. When the former UM forward wasn't impressing basketball fans, he was putting in overtime studying.

It paid off.

He will leave the university having completed a double major in anthropology and Native American studies.

“It's unfortunate more Native Americans aren't going to college,” he said. “It's a great experience.”

Chavez, professors and friends recently recounted the journey that led the Crow and Northern Cheyenne student to experience victory and defeat both on and off the basketball court. But his ultimate triumph rests in finishing school, something that can be chalked up to his willingness to persevere, keep his head up, motivate himself, get along with and trust others.

It wasn't easy.

“I wanted to be successful,” he said. “It wasn't so much that I wanted to succeed. I didn't want to fail. I grew up hearing about great ball players, the legends. And it didn't pan out. You hear people talk about them. I didn't want to be that person.”

He arrived at the University of Montana as a 19-year-old from Heart Butte, already something of a legend. He was an all-state basketball star who had been recruited to play hoops for the Grizzlies. It was a rare move for Chavez, considering that in 2004, there were only 51 Native men and women playing basketball at top-tier Division I schools, according to an NCAA race and ethnicity report."

Get the Story:
Jodi Rave: College basketball just part of Mike Chavez's dream come true (The Missoulian 5/12)

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