Freshman forward Mike Bruesewitz (right) has benefited from playing behind junior forwards Keaton Nankivil (left) and Jon Leuer.[/media-credit]

He may not be the most well-known player on the Wisconsin men’s basketball roster, but freshman forward Mike Bruesewitz is quickly making a name for himself.

Showing signs of talent right from the start, the St. Paul native set a career high in scoring, rebounding and minutes against Arizona. Although he has yet to match the six points, seven rebounds and 22 minutes of play tallied in the Maui Invitational game, the future still looks bright for the young star.

However, the transition from the high school level to the college level has been a challenging one for Bruesewitz, as it is for most players.

“I come home after practice, and the last thing I want to do is open up a textbook and read,” Bruesewitz said. “But you know, just get through it and make sure you get your stuff done, and it’s not too bad.”

Putting up over 17 points and almost 10 rebounds per game his senior year, Bruesewitz was highly touted out of high school. Winning both the Gatorade and AP Player of the Year awards in Minnesota, he already has experience as a team leader.

Bruesewitz won consecutive conference titles at Henry Sibley High School, and the Badgers are hoping that will carry over to the college level.

“You look at all the guys here, you know, they’ve all won at the high school level,” senior guard Jason Bohannon said. “Coming in here they know what it takes to win no matter what the situation is.”

Recruited by many schools, the freshman admitted the recruiting process was often hard on him due to the pressures of performing for scouts. Although Bruesewitz committed to Wisconsin early on in February of his junior year, several other schools recruited him.

“Wisconsin, it’s just a great place to be,” Bruesewitz said. “It’s close enough to home where if I need to be home for something I can, (but) just far enough away where it’s kind of like I’m not going to go home for family dinner on Saturday nights.”

Coaches agree he shows great potential and definitely has the skill set to be successful in the future. With solid numbers coming off the bench, Bruesewitz is quickly showing signs of improvement.

But the staff also agrees he definitely has room for improvement, particularly in his shooting, where he has been 0-for-5 from 3-point range this year.

“What he’s doing is fine,” assistant coach Gary Close said. “He’s like any freshman. He’s got to continue to improve… he’s been ready when called upon.”

Known for his hard-nosed offensive rebounding, Bruesewitz’s game is founded in his ability to dominate the boards. Averaging 2.4 rebounds per game in just over seven minutes, he has shown it is the strongest part of his game.

Even though he has not quite mastered his outside jump shot, the freshman’s emphasis on rebounding is perfect for the Badgers’ style of play. With a powerful 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame, Bruesewitz shows the potential to build an inside post game to complement his strong rebounding skills.

“Rebounding has always come natural to me… it’s been pretty instilled in me at an early age that rebounding wins games,” Bruesewitz said. “I always had to figure out ways to get the ball, and the best way to get a ball is offensive rebounding, to be able to get shots back up.”

One of several players coming off the bench to try to make up for the loss of Jon Leuer, Bruesewitz has played an increasingly important role for the UW men’s basketball team. With Leuer going down soon after the start of conference play, Bruesewitz has had to step in during a crucial part of the season.

“He can post-up, (and) he’s got a pretty good outside shot that’s developing,” Close said. “So he’s a player that can play both inside and out, and so [the swing offense] fits him to a ‘T’.”

With four players on the Wisconsin men’s basketball team from Minnesota, Bruesewitz has no problem relating to his teammates. Sharing memories of home and discussing high school games between him and Leuer a few years back (he admits Leuer got the better of him) have all helped the freshman find his place on the team.

However, the Minnesota native admits there is some state rivalry on the team, particularly after the Vikings loss in the NFC Championship Game.

“I’m not as big a Vikings fan as Jon or Jordan is… but I’d like to see the Vikings win obviously,” Bruesewitz said. “So it was a little bit troublesome.”

Perhaps a bit understated, but then again, that’s exactly the kind of player he is.