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Friday, July 25, 2014

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Behind Enemy Lines: Wisconsin guard Ben Brust

By Neal Rothschild, Daily Sports Editor
Published January 16, 2014

Ben Brust did little to endear himself to Michigan fans on Feb. 9 last year. The Michigan men’s basketball team was defending both a No. 3 ranking and a three-point lead with 2.4 seconds remaining at the Kohl Center, a place it hadn’t won since 1999.

After a timeout, forward Mike Bruesewitz inbounded a chest pass, falling forward and nearly stepping over the baseline committing a violation. But the ball came out nicely and hit Brust running parallel to the half-court line. Brust had time for one dribble to create some space away from defender Caris LeVert. The then-freshman guard hardly gave Brust space, and yet the Badger let off a high-arcing 40-footer that splashed right through the net. Brust sprinted right into the arms of the Wisconsin bench and the home team took the game in overtime.

Now in his senior season, Brust gets the most playing time on the whole team and backs it up with 13.1 points per game and 4.9 rebounds per game. His 94-percent free-throw percentage and 2.8 made 3-pointers per game are both best in the Big Ten.

The Daily sat down with Brust at Big Ten Media Day in October.

The Michigan Daily: In the weeks and months after the shot against Michigan, how much did you think about it?

Ben Brust: I try not to think about it all the time because it happened in the past. When I’m done playing, I’m sure I’ll have time to look back and say, ‘Hey look, that was awesome.’ Right now, I’m just trying to focus on getting better for this year. This is my last year, so I’m going to leave it all out there. But it’s definitely a fun experience, and I’ll definitely remember it forever.

TMD: As far as personal moments, where does that shot rank for you?

BB: Yeah, it’s No. 1 for sure.

TMD: What would be second? Something in college or high school?

BB: Eh, probably high school. I scored 50 twice, which was kinda fun. But in terms of a team win, rushing the floor, that whole hour with my family there (against Michigan), it all came together.

TMD: You guys have beaten the Wolverines 12 times in the last 13 games. Do you feel like you have their number?

BB: Ah, well I mean, I just think we’re trying to play good basketball. We’ve had some really good games against them. They’re a good team, they’re well-coached, so I really look forward to competing against them because it usually brings a fun game.

TMD: Given that Michigan made it to the National Championship last year, does that put a bigger target on its back?

BB: Maybe a little bit. But I think it’s a testament to this league and the fact that they were fifth in the Big Ten Tournament in terms of seed, and then they go on to the National Championship. So that’s a testament to this league, and you never know what can happen.

TMD: What’s it like being the only true senior on a team that usually relies on its veterans?

BB: I guess (redshirt junior) Josh Gasser came in with me, so it almost feels like he’s a senior too. But to be the only true senior, it’s different but it’s fun. I’m still close with everyone else on the team, so it almost feels like we’re all the same age.

TMD: Do you try to model your leadership style after the guys you learned from when you were younger?

BB: You pick up things that they did, but for me, I’m just trying to play hard and lead by example. Just give it my all, and hopefully young guys will pick up on that. If you think about it too hard, you almost do too much. You’ve just got to be you and learn from guys. Jordan Taylor was a point guard for two years, so you pick up some things. You help each other out — defensive pointers, or on offense, cutting. Just the little stuff that you just gotta try and help out.