Badgers hot on the trail of Illinois shooting guard

2010-04-20T18:05:00Z Badgers hot on the trail of Illinois shooting guardRob Schultz | 608-252-6487 | rschultz@madison.com madison.com

If you believe in omens, you have a reason to be optimistic about the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team’s chances of seeing Ben Brust play for the Badgers next season.

Brust is a 6-foot-2, 185-pound senior shooting guard from Mundelein, Ill., who had signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Iowa last fall. But the university released him and forward Cody Larson from their commitments after Todd Lickliter was fired as the Hawkeyes’ coach earlier this month.

That news sent college coaches across the country scurrying to get the attention of the multi-talented Brust, whose grade-point average is arguably more impressive than his scoring average and shooting percentages.

Brust’s AAU coach, Mike Weinstein, said Brust has been flooded with scholarship offers from, among others, Cal, USC, Clemson, Boston College, Nebraska and Colorado.

Big Ten Conference schools who have offered scholarships include Northwestern, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.

As it turns out, the UW coaches have a history with Brust, a senior who was described by Weinstein as a deadly shooter whose range begins the second he steps inside the door of the gym.

“He has great feet and a big-time motor. He’ll dunk in games. He’s real athletic. He’s a scorer who can score in many ways,” Weinstein said.

The Badgers were among the first schools to recruit Brust a few years ago, but had to back off after UW got a verbal commitment from Madison Memorial’s Vander Blue. So Brust committed to Iowa just before Blue backed out of his commitment to the UW. Blue signed a letter of intent to play for Marquette starting in the fall.

Everything is back to square one, but some twists have been added to Brust’s recruitment that might help the Badgers. First, the Badgers have a shortage of guards. Secondt, Brust is a close friend of UW recruit Duje Dukan, the 6-7 swingman from Deerfield (Ill.) who committed to play for the Badgers last fall and got the scholarship Blue passed up.

“Duje is doing some great recruiting,” Weinsten said.

Second, Weinstein played high school basketball 20 years ago at Highland Park (Ill.) and one of his teammates was Dukan’s coach at Deerfield High School, Bret Just. One of their biggest rivals was Chicago Taft, which was led by Howard Moore, who is the lead UW assistant in the recruitment of Brust.

All three remain good friends.

Weinstein said UW coach Bo Ryan and Moore had an official visit with Brust and his family last Saturday in Mundelein. He added the visit, which lasted four or five hours, went extremely well.

“Howard Moore and coach Ryan are class acts,” he said. “They are always respectful and positive. Wisconsin is a great place.”

Weinstein said Brust wants to stay in the Big Ten, but might have to look elsewhere because of a Big Ten rule that prohibits student-athletes from getting a scholarship to a conference school if he or she signs a National Letter of Intent at another conference school.

The rule, which the Big Ten is considering waiving in the case of the Iowa recruits, also affects Larson, who has been recruited by Ohio State, among others.

“We believe the rule will be changed. We believe it’s going to work out,” Weinstein said. “If it does, it’s great for Ben because he has some real good Big Ten opportunities. He’s a kid who has always loved the Big Ten. So that’s important to him.”

If the rule is waived, Weinstein said Brust may visit to the UW campus later this week. Weinstein also believes Brust may make a decision around May 1. At that time he will be playing in a national high school all-star game for academic scholars in Los Angeles. Brust was one of 30 high school seniors selected to play in it.

“That’s a kid you want at your school,” Weinstein said.

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