Needing to Bruise

With junior Jon Leuer out indefinitely with a wrist injury, Wisconsin will need its freshman post players to step in to play with the older guys. That's nothing new for Mike Bruesewitz, who has battled the older, taller players for the rebounds since day one.

EVANSTON, Ill. - Although having the size is a big bonus, becoming a good rebounder can be taught, no matter the player. True freshman Mike Bruesewitz, in addition to claiming he has the right butt, hips and legs to be a rebounder, had to be taught how to grasp that loose ball.

His learning ways has led Bruesewitz to grab 10 rebounds in his last 10 minutes on the floor, providing that spark he is shooting every time he comes off the bench, something that makes the older generation at Minnesota's YMCA smile inside.

"I always prided myself on being able to rebound and it's something I learned at an early age," Bruesewitz said. "I use to play against a lot of older guys (at the YMCA) and I found out that they really wouldn't pass me the ball."

So like any teenager wanting to fit in, the only way Bruesewitz would be able to score his points was to get an offensive rebound or secure a defensive rebound, quickly run down court and throw up a shot.

"Everybody would be mad at me, but I'd say ‘Screw up guys, I got my rebound,'" he said with a laugh. "I learned at an early age how to use my body and played against a lot of older guys with more experience, so I had to figure it out really quick."

Monday's practice was the epitome to the ‘figure it out quick' phrase, seeing as Bruesewitz and fellow post freshman Jared Berggren are likely to see their roles in Wisconsin's grand scheme increase exponentially.

When No.13 Wisconsin (13-3, 3-1 Big Ten) begins its second road trip in as many weeks – taking on Northwestern (12-3, 1-2) at Welsh-Ryan Arena Wednesday – the Badgers will be making the trip without starting forward and second-leading scorer Jon Leuer, who fractured his bone in his left non-shooting wrist against then-No.4 Purdue Saturday.

With Leuer out indefinitely and leaving a gaping hole in UW's frontcourt, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan made Monday's practice a full-out teaching clinic, not only trying to prepare two young freshman to fill the void but prepare them for the intricacies of the Wildcats' Princeton Offense and their 1-3-1 defense.

No wonder the Badgers' practice went over three hours rather than the usual two.

"You just have to try and absorb as much as you can from him," Bruesewitz said of Ryan. "There was so much stuff (Monday) that I have to go through my mind and comprehend it a little later. I mean, he's such a basketball whiz that you have to pay attention and pick up what he says."

Appearing in 12 games this season, Bruesewitz found his niche in the EA Sports Maui Invitational. After a shaky two-turnover performance in his first collegiate game, Bruesewitz averaged 14.3 minutes per game in Maui, including posting six points, seven rebounds and taking two charges in 22 minutes against Arizona, marking a three-day tournament that spearheaded his development.

"I got to play a lot and the thing that really helped me was the confidence factor," he said. "Getting thrown into the mix at Maui, it was a confidence thing. Since then I've been able to go at it in practice."

Consistency on the boards is what is going to carry Wisconsin through this next stretch without Leuer, who was the team's leading rebounder with 6.2 boards per game. The Badgers have out-rebounded 12 of 16 opponents this season, sporting an 11-1 record in those games. UW leads the Big Ten in rebounding defense, allowing just 30.0 opponent boards per game, and leads the nation in defensive rebounding percentage, pulling down 75.9 percent of the rebounds on the defensive end.

Northwestern on the other hand has been out rebounded in 9 of 15 games this season, but still made it into the Associated Press Top 25 poll in late December for the first time since 1969.

Bruesewitz admitted that his role of coming off the bench to do the dirty work isn't going to change, only the dosage will. Having provided toughness and energy so far when things have been lackadaisical, the Badgers will need him to continue that trend if UW is going to survive.

"You either get your butt whipped or you figure it out; rebounding is a lot of who wants it more and I pride myself on wanting it more than the other guys," Bruesewitz said. "It's just basketball. I don't really get nervous before games because you kind of get use to it. The only people I really care about are the 15 guys on the team … We just need to keep rolling."


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