Lucas at Large: Bruesewitz raises his hair and his game

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UW basketball forward Mike Bruesewitz knows what you're thinking, and he's fine with it. Bruesewitz knows that you're thinking "What in the world was he thinking'' when he grew out his hair into a curly, red Afro that conjures up images of comedian Scott Thompson (aka Carrot Top).

"Every once in awhile you have to have a change of pace,'' Bruesewitz said.

At  Saturday night's exhibition between the Badgers and UW-La Crosse, the "Bruesewitz Hair Cam'' made its debut on the scoreboard at the Kohl Center. Some unsuspecting fans were spotlighted on the giant screen and "fitted'' with a computer-generated facsimile of the Bruesewitz mop.

Bruesewitz was in a team huddle during the timeout and didn't see it. "But I found out a couple of days ago that they're selling wigs at Bucky's Locker Room,'' he said.

So, what in the world was he thinking?

Well, he was thinking he wanted to be like his big brother. And if you think the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Bruesewitz is big, you should see his big brother, Robert Bruesewitz, a 6-9, 265-pound giant who played offensive tackle for the Princeton University football team.

"I was in the eighth or ninth grade when he came home at Christmas during his sophomore year of college,'' Mike said." My mom usually cut his hair, but he was too cheap to get a haircut on the East Coast because they were expensive. So he had this big, bushy red Afro and I was really jealous.''

Following his freshman season with the Badgers - during which he appeared in 28 games as a backup and won over the fan base with his hustle and energy - Mike Bruesewitz decided to come back with a new look Afro for his sophomore year. What was the reaction of his UW teammates?

"Sometimes it's a topic of discussion, but they really don't remember what I looked like with the crew cut,'' said Bruesewitz, whose family moved from Litchfield, Minn. to St. Paul after his sophomore year of high school. His older brother Bob was on two state championship basketball teams at Litchfield.

Mike Bruesewitz twice led Henry Sibley High School to the state tournament, including the Class 4A title game when he was a junior. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Minnesota as a senior.

Bruesewitz anticipates that he will be the target of opposing Big Ten fans on the road.

Some things never change.

"Being a redheaded kid, you hear about your hair everywhere you go,'' he said. "I got it bad in high school and I got it bad last year. During warm-ups, a lot of times 'Ginger' would be thrown out. It comes with the territory of being redheaded, but it's all right. I expect to hear it, and I don't mind it.''

Bruesewitz is hoping that people will recognize that his game has a new look, too. He has spent the off-season working on his jump shot. His tutor has been UW assistant coach Gary Close.

"Coach Close is the shot doctor on the team and he has helped me a lot,'' Bruesewitz said. "We've made some minor tweaks here and there. Mechanically, it was nothing major. We've just tried to make it more compact and more consistent. Sometimes I'd shoot on my way and I'd be short.''

Although he received limited minutes as a freshman, he understood his role. "I tried to bring energy to the team,'' Bruesewitz said. "Whether it was getting rebounds, getting on the floor, scrapping in the post, or stuff like that, I tried to bring something to the team that needs to be done every game.

"Sometimes it would be getting an offensive rebound. Sometimes it would be sticking a guy on defense. Hopefully this season, I can help carry the load a little bit more offensively. My confidence is a little bit higher. This is my second year in the program, and I kind of know what's expected of me.''

So, what is expected of Mike Bruesewitz?

"Making better reads, making better decisions, especially when I have the ball,'' he said. "Defensively, making sure I'm better off the ball, and on the ball.''

Saturday night, Bruesewitz played 17 minutes and had eight points (4-of-5), four rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one Hair Cam moment (one more than anyone else in college basketball).

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