A New Look

Becoming a rebounding magnet at the end of his first season, sophomore Mike Bruesewitz has spent the summer perfecting, refining and improving all areas of his game ... and his hair.

MADISON – There's a noticeable change in Mike Bruesewitz. Actually, there is a couple.

Sitting down to address reporters for the first time this fall, the normally head shaven Bruesewitz has grown the state's biggest carrot top afro.

"I am just letting it go," Bruesewitz said with a smile.

The sophomore from St. Paul is also letting go of his inhibitions and passiveness that handcuffed the then-freshman during parts of last season. He can easily prove his increase aggressiveness when he holds out his scratch-filled arms for all to see.

"I've always tried to play hard," Bruesewitz said. "I've been hit in the face a few times, my nose, my lip, all that stuff. We are trying to set an identity of being physical and all that stuff. We've had a lot of blood and sweat. We all want to be tougher and be a hit-in-the-mouth kind of team."

It's a transition Bruesewitz admittedly took awhile to get used to. Coming from Henry Sibley High, Bruesewitz was able to beat up most of the competition in high school because he was the bigger, stronger player. Try to find him during a Wisconsin basketball practice last year and he got lost amongst the trees known as Jared Berggren, J.P. Gavinski, Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil.

"A couple of those guys outweigh me by 30-40 pounds," Bruesewitz said.

The key for Bruesewitz then became knowing when to pick his spots, a common-sense capability that led to more than a couple shining moments last season. In the first game of the three-day Maui Invitational, Bruesewitz played a season-high 22 minutes in relief, posting a career-best 6 points, 7 rebounds and took 2 charges in a four-point win over Arizona.

He appeared in 27 other games as a true freshman and found his niche as a rebounding magnet. Of Bruesewitz' 57 rebounds, 54.4 percent (31) came on the offensive end. Over the final six Big Ten games, he grabbed 18 rebounds over that span, 12 of which came on the offensive end.

"I was blessed with a big butt and I have learned to use it," Bruesewitz said. "I have been taught some stuff on how to deal with guys who are really long and guys that can jump really high, guys that are just bigger then you."

A solid 220 pounds and 6-foot-6 Bruesewitz has shown the ability to bang down low and the skill level to play outside. In the exhibition opener against UW-La Crosse, Bruesewitz did just that, grabbing four rebounds and finished 4-of-5 on the floor for eight points.

When No.24 Wisconsin wraps up its exhibition schedule against Division II Minnesota State Wednesday and with Head Coach Bo Ryan still mixing and matching combinations, expect to see Ryan take advantage of Bruesewitz' versatility, shifting him between the perimeter at the ‘3' and small-ball ‘4.'

"Practices have been very intense because we have six to eight guys fighting for those frontcourt positions and minutes," Bruesewitz said. "It's a very good thing because it can translate to a game situation with the ability to bring it guys with fresh legs and be effective. Everybody is going to go really hard."

Realizing the overwhelming depth at his position, it's not a shock to hear Bruesewitz's admission that he's worked harder this summer to prepare his game for his second stint. What's even simpler are his goals: stay consistent on the floor and surprise some people with his skills.

One thing is for certain, his red afro won't allow him to sneak up on anybody.

"Last year, I got in some games and played a bit and other games I mostly stayed on the bench cheering and getting guys ready on the scout team," Bruesewitz said. "My big thing this year is hopefully being able to help the team more, contribute more on the court in games and be a bit more of a leader this year."


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