Vandahl accepts walk-on spot | SteamboatToday.com

Vandahl accepts walk-on spot

Steamboat basketball star to test talent at University of Denver

Luke Graham

— All Michael Vandahl wanted was an opportunity to play Division I basketball.

So even when scholarship offers to play at lower divisions were there, Vandahl waited out the college selection process and, on Friday, accepted a walk-on spot to play basketball at the University of Denver.

“I’ve always wanted to play Division I,” Vandahl said. “That’s been a goal I set since I started playing basketball.”

Vandahl leaves Steamboat Springs High School as the school’s all-time leader in assists with 331, free-throw percentage at 83.9 and 3-point field goal percentage at 40.2. He also set the school’s single-season free-throw percentage record his junior year, when he shot 90.6 percent from the line. That number is good enough for fifth all-time in the state.

“In Mike, what they’re getting is an extremely hard worker that won’t back down,” Steamboat Springs boys basketball coach Kelly Meek said. “This is an opportunity of a lifetime.”

Vandahl had offers from Mesa State College and Western State College. He also looked at several Division III schools and a walk-on spot at Montana State University, while considering a year of prep school.

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In the end, though, Vandahl said when Pioneers coach Joe Scott offered him a walk-on spot, he jumped at the chance.

“This is an opportunity that I can’t pass up,” Vandahl said. “It’s an opportunity that only comes once. I had to take it.”

Denver returns nine players from last year’s team that went 11-19 in Scott’s first year as head coach.

Scott came to Denver after stints at Princeton University and the Air Force Academy.

Vandahl said after sending out his game tapes to numerous colleges, Denver brought him in for a tryout. Vandahl performed well and was then offered a spot on the team.

“He’s as coachable as any kid I have had in 36 years,” Meek said. “His entire athletic package has to and will improve. Right now, though, I can tell you that nobody on that team will have a bigger heart.”

Vandahl will play in the Colorado High School Coaches Association All-State game June 14. He said he’ll continue to workout through the summer and make as many trips as he can to Denver to play with some of the Pioneers’ returning players. He may also help out at a summer basketball camp at the school.

Although nothing is guaranteed with a walk-on spot, Vandahl said all he needs is a chance.

“I’ll have to work my butt off,” he said. “But I’ll like that.”

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