Nov. 21, 2012
After turning off the microphone as the analyst for the Badger Radio Network, UWBadgers.com Insider Mike Lucas offers some final thoughts on Wisconsin's 88-43 win over Presbyterian.
By MIKE LUCAS
Ben Brust would much rather talk about Brad Keselowski than Ben Brust.
Brust would much rather talk about NASCAR than rebounding.
There are just some things that Brust doesn't have any answers for - his rebounding, for one.
He's not alone.
When Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan was asked to talk about Brust notching back-to-back double-doubles - points and rebounds - he blurted out, "What the heck is going on?"
You really can't blame him for answering a question with a question; especially since everyone is asking the same thing: How is Brust doing it?
After Tuesday night's mismatch with Presbyterian - the Badgers crushed the Blue Hose, 88-43 - Brust moved ahead of Michigan State's Derrick Nix to become the current leading rebounder in the Big Ten.
Brust is a 6-1, 195-pound guard. Nix is a 6-9, 270-pound center.
"It's because of his effort," said UW assistant Lamont Paris.
"It's because he's working hard," said UW assistant Gary Close.
"It's because he's opportunistic and hungry," said UW associate head coach Greg Gard.
It's "all of the above" plus "he's got a nose for the ball" Ryan said.
Through the first four games of the season, Brust has had 12 rebounds against Presbyterian, 12 against Cornell and 11 against Southeastern Louisiana. He had only two in a loss at Florida.
"He's always played hard," Paris rationalized. "But he has been more determined than ever to get his nose in there. Every time you look around the rim, he's there."
Laughing, Paris continued, "He's scrapping, he' scraping, he's biting, and he's clawing."
Mostly, he's doing things, Paris added, that have yielded some good results.
"Rebounding, for the most part, is effort," Close reasoned. "There's a little positioning. But he's got a great knack for reading bounces and putting his nose on it. He's just outworking people."
There's also an element of timing.
"Missed shots bounce his way," Ryan suggested. "Where hard work meets opportunity, guys can get pretty lucky. It seems like a lot for the little guy, but it's not."
"He's working hard, he's got the opportunities and he's taking advantage of them."
That's pretty much how Brust, a junior from Hawthorn Woods, Ill., sees rebounding.
"It's just getting the ball," he said. "You've played the game for such a long time, you kind of pick up on how the ball is going to bounce off the rim. It's timing and just having a knack for it."
He wondered aloud, too, if it wasn't all just part of the learning curve.
Based on what he has put on tape, he knows that future opponents are learning about him.
"Scouting reports get deeper," he said. "But, at the end of the day, it's just the drive to go and get the ball. I'm just playing the game of basketball. I'm going after it hard."
Does it have something to do with having a "feel" for the game?
"That's one way to put it," he said.
Does it have something to do with confidence?
"Maybe," he said. "It's more ...whoever wants the ball the most is going to get it."
As a high school senior, Brust averaged 5.9 rebounds for the Mundelein Mustangs.
"I was OK," Brust said.
Rebounding was not his calling. Scoring was. He averaged 24.9 points and topped 40 four times.
On the heels of scoring 20 points against Presbyterian - he was 6-of-9 from beyond the 3-point arc, one triple shy of his personal best - Brust was given some options to ponder.
Would he rather get an offensive rebound and score on the put-back?
Or, would he rather drain a three-point shot?
"A three feels pretty good," he said. "It counts more than two."
You can't beat that argument. Nor can you beat the way the Badgers moved the ball in collecting 24 assists on 33 made baskets in the Presbyterian rout.
"That's always good - good ball movement - playing like a team," he said. "We're getting confident as far as feeling out where each other is at and where each other is going to be on a cut."
The Badgers have been getting production and energy off the bench from sophomore Traevon Jackson and freshman Sam Dekker. Each is bringing something a little bit different to the rotation.
"It's always good to have a guy off the bench who's going to bring you something," said Brust, who was in that role last season. "And it doesn't necessarily have to be scoring.
"Trae is doing a good job of distributing the ball, and Sam is doing a good job of bringing energy. Confidence-wise, we're putting wins on the board (as a team) and that's always important."
Which brings up Team Keselowski and Team owner Roger Penske.
Keselowski has become the first Sprint Cup champion for Penske Racing.
Brust has taken note.
"Keselowski is a good guy, and good for the sport," Brust said. "He does a lot of social media, and he's good with the fans. I respect Jimmy Johnson (the five-time winner) 100 percent.
"But I think it's good to have a different kind of winner. He's young, and up-and-coming. He's a young driver and he's not afraid to speak his mind. I appreciate that."
Not any more than Badger fans are appreciating Brust's effort - scoring or rebounding.
"He has been determined, that's for sure," Paris said. "It's fun to see him doing it."