Suppose you were a three-sport star in high school. You were a standout student and so good at volleyball that Gonzaga offered you a scholarship and you spent four years patrolling the net as a dominant middle blocker.

After you played your final match in 2007 and left Spokane owning the Bulldogs' all-time blocks record, you figured your collegiate athletic career was over. You got a job as a Certified Nursing Assistant and were ready to break into the medical field.

So what the heck are you doing on a junior college basketball team, a year after you graduated?

If you're Briawna Mueller, the 2004 Hermiston graduate who owns that impressive blocks record at Gonzaga, finding out you might be able to play basketball while attending Blue Mountain?Community College was an unexpected - but welcome - surprise.

Mueller is taking care of some nursing prerequisites at BMCC before heading into an accelerated nursing program. She said playing basketball for the Timberwolves was simply "logical," both for the scholarship and also for the love of competition.

"I was really, really excited when?I found out I had two more years of eligibility in another sport. I came to a tryout and felt pretty good afterwards and decided to play," she said. "I still have a long ways to go, but I'm getting better."

Her debut game in a T-Wolves uniform was impressive. Mueller put up 23 points, nine rebounds and four steals against Chemeketa, quickly establishing herself as a force to be reckoned with inside the paint.

From that point, Mueller has looked good at times and she's also suffered the growing pains that should be expected from someone who hasn't played competitive basketball since 2004. One game she'll put up 25 points, only to follow that up with five points and a couple boards.

Mueller said she's only going to be at BMCC for one year, and she's using that time constraint as a motivating factor.

"It definitely makes it more special," she said. "I only have one season to see how far I can get and how I can develop my skills. It's kind of a rush against time."

Season averages of 13 points and 7.5 rebounds prove Mueller is definitely rounding into basketball shape and will be a big part of a BMCC team that has already won more games (4) in 2009 than all of last season (3).

Yet, it's actually the intangibles she brings to the team that has second-year head coach Christy Martin excited.

"The biggest thing is she's not one of the younger ones," Martin said, noting that the team ranges in age from 17 to 24. "She can definitely help the kids through any of their dilemmas with academics or athletics or if they have frustrations. She is somebody the kids can talk to and know she's been there and been through it."

Having an older player on the team also helps take some of the pressure of the three sophomores on the squad, who suffered through a tough season in 2008-09 that resulted in a 3-20 record.

"She comes as a good role model for all of us, how much older she is," said sophomore guard Jenny Beamer, a Pendleton graduate and one of the team's leaders. "She's just a good athlete. It's good to have someone who has already played four years of sports."

Owen R. Smith is a sports writer at the East Oregonian. Write him at osmith@eastoregonian.com.

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