It may not have the same ring as “Magic” but for Mike Brkovich the hoop nickname “The Golden Arm” will have to do.
That is the moniker that his coach Jud Heathcote gave him during Brkovich’s playing days with the Michigan State Spartans alongside some guy named Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
A college career which was highlighted by a 1978-79 NCAA crown over previously undefeated Indiana State - which featured future Hall of Famer and Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird. A game in which Brkovich became the first Canadian ever to start in a NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship.
Brkovich was a starter on one of the top "Fabulous Fives" of all time: Magic Johnson F, Greg Kelser F, Jay Vincent C and Terry Donnelly G.
Not bad for a young lad from Windsor Ontario who needed a “second chance” to impress Spartans coach Heathcote.
It was June 1977 when Brkovich’s provincial champion W. D. Lowe High School coach Gerry Brumpton took his star to a scrimmage against some MSU players and high school recruits. Brkovich failed to impress but on a return visit he took the ball to the hole dunking over future teammate and current All-American Kelser. Say hello scholarship.
In his freshman year (1977-78) he averaged 2.3 ppg in 27 games earning the Most Improved Player Award while his team – Big 10 champs – lost to Kentucky in the Midwest regionals.
Part of MSU’s 2-3 match-up zone defenses, Brkovich and Magic hounded Bird in the 1978-79 NCAA championship winning 75-64. Brkovich averaged 7.0 ppg during the season. He was part of one of the one of the top "fabulous fives" of all time: Magic Johnson, Greg Kelser, Jay Vincent, Terry Donnelly and Brkovich
In 1979-80 he would lead the team in assists (96) while scoring in double figures 14 of 27 games for an 8.8 ppg average. He finished his collegiate career in 1980-81 in the role of co-captain.
His eagle eye shooting captured the attention of the Milwaukee Bucks when he was drafted 181st overall (8th round) in 1981.
He represented Canada at the 1979 Pan American Games and played semi-pro hoops with the Wisconsin Flyers (1982-83) of the Continental Basketball League averaging 18 ppg.
Insight and research provided by Curtis J. Phillips