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February 25, 2014

Brust's journey coming to a close





MADISON, Wis. - It was a long shot. Both in the physical and in the metaphorical sense.

The odds of it happening seemed near microscopic. Well, for the average college basketball player, that is.

But this is no ordinary college basketball player, this is Ben Brust. And whether discussing his half-court buzzer-beater against the Michigan Wolverines to send the game into overtime and, in turn, the Kohl Center into a frenzy, or talking about his journey from scoring 10 combined points his freshman season to reaching the 1,000 point plateau as a captain his senior season, Badger fans are reminded time and time again that whenever he is on the court, no matter the circumstances or odds, anything is possible.

Fans have known this for years. And it's all coming to an end.

The senior guard has a mere two games remaining at the Kohl Center.

"I don't even want to talk about it," Brust said at practice while looking at the floor he has called home for the past four seasons. "I can't believe I have two games left here. I just remember all the times where everyone was like, 'It goes so fast,' and I'm just a little freshmen like, 'Oh, I'm just here,' and now I'm like, 'holy cow, they were right.' "

While the time has certainly flown by for Brust, he has left Badger fans and even his teammates and coaches with plenty to reminisce about.

Brust went 7-for-7 from three-point range on Dec. 10, 2011 against UNLV, tying a Wisconsin and Big Ten record. Brust hit 79 three-pointers during the 2012-13 campaign, a Wisconsin record - one that he is on pace to beat this season. And, of course, the shot that need not be referred to by anything else other than: "Michigan."

"There are definitely some other moments that I think of that come to mind," Brust said when trying to recall his most memorable moment as a Badger, "But Michigan tops it all."

"That Michigan shot," Wisconsin assistant coach Gary Close admitted as his favorite Brust moment. "But also the three in overtime in that game was huge. Those two probably come to mind first, but there have been some games where he's just gotten red hot and it's special to watch."

The legend of Brust that grew with "Michigan" started at Iowa.

After signing his letter of intent with the Iowa Hawkeyes, Brust asked for his release when the Hawkeyes fired coach Todd Lickliter in favor of Fran McCaffery. Shortly thereafter, the Badgers had their man.

"He came to our advanced camp and he caught our eye here before he ended up committing to Iowa," Close said of Wisconsin's interest in Brust. "When he was here, early on, there would be days where on the scout team he'd make four, five, six three-pointers."

Brust's time on the scout team and limited playing time on the court during games his freshman season - just 45 minutes in 15 games - allowed for him to learn about the game from some of his older teammates and former Badger greats.

"Jordan Taylor was definitely a guy who taught me a lot and I still keep in touch with him to this day," Brust said. "Guys like Jared Berggren and even Dan Fahey who are older than me but I got to know and hopefully I'll be friends with them forever."

One of the current Badger players who Brust has grown especially close with is his current roommate and backcourt teammate is Josh Gasser.

"He's been close to me as both a teammate and as a friend," Brust said of Gasser. "It's fun when you form these friendships because of basketball and they turn into friendships that will last forever."

Brust said that the two bond and laugh about some of the "dumbest things." The pair's current kick involves Brust watching some high school football film of Gasser's time as quarterback for Port Washington High School. Brust has been learning all of Gasser's signals and calls while pretending to be the offensive coordinator.

"I've been dying of laughter watching his games," Brust said. "It's just dumb stuff but that's the stuff I'll remember. It's all the little stuff you do, just hanging around."

With Brust's development as Gasser 2.0 on the football field in the works, Brust's development into one of the best scorers in Wisconsin basketball history was cemented when the 6-foot-1 guard scored his 1,000th career point on Saturday - against none other than Iowa.

"(It is something that) when his career is over, he's going to look back on and be really proud of," Gasser said of Brust's milestone, "As will I, being a teammate of his and coming in with him and being good friends with him."

"When kids work as hard as they can and play team basketball like (Ben) does, it's rewarding," Close said. "It shows that he has the talent necessary to score that many points and it also shows that he's on a good team where guys can find him. He's always been a competitive kid that's wanted to get better, yet he always puts the team first."

And perhaps that is what summarizes Brust best. At the end of every three-pointer; at the conclusion of every half-court buzzer-beater; and at the end of his time in the Cardinal and White, Brust has always directed the praise toward those who helped him along the way.

When he takes the court for the final two games of his career at the Kohl Center, Brust will be thankful to all those who have helped him complete his lifelong dream of playing the game he loves. As a sense of gratitude, Brust has stated that he has no more personal goals, for he's accomplished an ample amount in his four seasons in Madison. Now, he wants to do whatever he can to help his team go as far as it can.

"It's crazy. It's been a long road," Brust said, reflecting on his career. "I've been fortunate to have some teammates before me who set a good example and I just have to thank all my teammates who helped get me the ball because I wouldn't be at that milestone without them. It's been fun, but I don't want to worry too much about this because I know that we still have a lot of basketball to play."

As for whether or not Brust believes he has another "Michigan" in store for Badger nation between now and the end of the season:

"Something might come up the rest of the way," Brust said. "That's all I'm going to give you for now."

For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow Zack on Twitter.


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