Feb. 6, 2014
BY MIKE LUCAS
MADISON, Wis. -- On a snowy, mid-winter road trip to Champaign, Ill. -- which included an unscheduled overnight stay on Tuesday -- Wisconsin's Ben Brust had some Chesney and Summer coming out of his headphones.
"I'm listening to all the songs that I listen to in the summer to make it feel warmer than it is now," said Brust whose playlist featured country and disco, Kenny Chesney and the late Donna Summer.
"I golf to a lot of country -- a lot of Chesney -- and my dad (John) was a disco dance teacher way back in the day," he explained without smirking (too much), "so I've got some Donna Summer on here.
"A lot of country, a little bit of disco -- just for warm thoughts -- I'm trying to trick my mind even though I know that it's going to be cold for awhile."
Cold doesn't begin to cover back-to-back home losses to Northwestern and Ohio State during which the Badgers had long stretches without baskets and shot a combined 8-of-41 (.195) from 3-point range. The cold spell even affected a reliable 3-point shooter like Brust who was 5-of-16 in the two games.
"Shooting slumps happen," said Brust, a senior from Hawthorn Woods, Ill. "But we're all capable shooters, we've proven that. You just have to get the ball, step up to the plate, have confidence and knock it down. It's going to happen sooner or later."
On whether a player ever allows himself to think that his shot is not going down before the ball leaves his hands, Brust insisted, "If you do that then you're beat; you've beaten yourself mentally. You have to approach every shot like the next one is going in. Shoot to get hot, shoot to stay hot, I guess.
"It's a long season and you're playing in a lot of different games and there are different flows to every game. You have to be ready at all times because you never know when you'll get off the snide, if you want to put it that way, and get going again. I think we're all ready to do that."
On Tuesday night, the Badgers knocked down 6 of 12 from beyond the 3-point arc in the second half while shooting 48 percent overall from the field in a 75-63 victory at Illinois. Brust and Sam Dekker had 16 points apiece with Dekker matching a career high with four triples.
Wisconsin has now won seven straight in the series and six of the last eight in Champaign, including three in a row for the first time since 1908. Even though you can see why the Badgers wouldn't want to leave town, they were stuck an extra night when problems arose in de-icing their charter plane.
When the Badgers return to action Sunday against Michigan State at the Kohl Center, Brust will be 34 points away from reaching 1,000 for his UW career. Despite playing just 45 minutes overall and scoring a mere 10 points as a true freshman, he has no regrets.
"I think I learned a lot during that year and I was always there if anything happened (to one of the other guards)," he said. "I did my job to try and help the team get better in practices and I was always ready. It helped shape me to be the player that I am today."
|“Winning in my senior year is what matters first,” Brust stressed. “The rest will take care of itself.”
With two more triples at Illinois -- he's among the national leaders with 47 games of two or more 3-point baskets the last two seasons (35 of his last 40 games) -- Brust is within shooting range of 200 career 3-pointers. He has 197. UW's all-time leader is Tim Locum who had 227.
The only other Badger players who have scored more than Brust from beyond the 3-point arc are Kirk Penney (217), Michael Finley (213) and Jason Bohannon (212). That's pretty good company for Brust who has always been reluctant to discuss personal milestones, especially during the season.
"Winning in my senior year is what matters first," he stressed. "The rest will take care of itself."
It may also apply to his shooting since it has always seemed to come naturally for Brust and that dates all the way back to when he was scoring on a "Fisher-Price hoop when I was a little baby" he kidded. Like so many families, he grew up playing against his older brothers on their driveway.
"We had a slanted driveway so you had to re-adjust your shot," he said. "There was a sidewalk spot in-between the grass where I would always go to shoot. It was a square or relief where my brothers couldn't get to me. That's where I had my free space and I learned to shoot a little deeper."
Having developed that kind of extended range is still paying dividends today. "I've always been comfortable out there," Brust said. "If you get going (from beyond the arc), it opens up some things inside where you can use shot fakes and get into the lane.
"Growing up you get pegged sometimes as a shooter quote unquote. I'd like to think that I've scored in multiple ways. Throughout my career I've just tried to expand (his game). It doesn't matter what I'm pegged as - I'm just trying to help the team win."
Enduring shooting slumps just comes with the territory, he agreed. "There are times when you're doing all the things you've worked on and the ball is still not going in, it's part of basketball," he said. "But there are so many other things that you can do to affect the game if your shot is not going in."
Plus, you can't dwell on the misses. To this end, Brust's family provides a valuable assist. His brother Jonathan has three kids with a fourth one on the way, he said. His brother Stephen has two kids and his sister Courtney may be expecting, he hinted.
"I love my family," Ben Brust said with a grin. "I have all these rug-rats flying around and they want to jump up and see their Uncle Ben and give him a hug and a kiss. It puts a smile on my face all the time. It's amazing therapy to get hugs from nieces and nephews."
There are moments, too, when he can't help but think of his late cousin, Anthony Brust, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in September of 2012. He was 21.
"There are times when it just hits you randomly," said Ben Brust, who was a pallbearer at the funeral. "You can't explain the times when it affects you emotionally."
Noting that Anthony, a mechanic, had worked on his car just a few weeks before his death, he said, "He changed my brakes that day, so every time I press on them there are subtle reminders.
"I'm just always thinking about him, or I'm always talking about him. I want to remember all the good that he was."
More warm thoughts for cold winter days.