Brian Cardinal isn’t going to make anybody’s list of all-time great basketball players. He never made an all-star team, never started more than 16 games in any season and averaged just 4.6 points and 2.3 rebounds.
He also played in 456 NBA games over 12 seasons, and, according to basketball-reference.com, made more than $39 million in his pro career.
So when former University of Wisconsin forward Mike Bruesewitz hears his NBA potential described in the same breath as Cardinal, he isn’t one to scoff at the comparison.
“Brian Cardinal is a journeyman in the league, and he’s made a lot of money,” Bruesewitz told reporters Thursday in Milwaukee at one of the Bucks’ pre-draft workouts. “Especially in the NBA, you have to look at what your role is going to be and what type of player you are going to be. That’s the kind of guy I’m probably going to be, one of those dudes. A Bruce Bowen type, just sit down and play defense, knock down corner 3s.
“You are not going to sit there and give a team 40 (points) every night, but that’s why you have guys that are projected first-round picks that are going to do that. You just have to understand your role, understand your niche.”
Bruesewitz developed a reputation at Wisconsin as one of the toughest players in college basketball, ready and willing to stick his face into a scrum or absorb a floor burn for a loose ball. He is hoping to bring that same passion to an NBA team, provided it is willing to take a chance on him.
Bucks director of scouting Billy McKinney referenced both Cardinal and Ryan Bowen in describing Bruesewitz’s skill set Thursday to reporters.
“He’s a guy that can play both forward positions,” McKinney said of the 6-foot-6 Bruesewitz. “He understands the game. He shoots the ball well enough, and he’s a better ball handler than people think he is. He’s just tough as nails.
“He’s a guy that might not get drafted, but could find his way into a camp and maybe find his way onto a roster because he really understands how to play the game. Every team likes to have a low-maintenance role player with their ballclub that can be ready to step on the floor and be ready to play.”
During his senior season at Wisconsin, Bruesewitz averaged 6.4 points and 5.3 rebounds, starting 30 of the 33 games in which he appeared. He also returned from a scary right leg injury last October that threatened to end his playing career. Though he shot just 28.3 percent on 3-pointers, he did hit 57.7 percent of his 2-pointers and was one of the vocal leaders on the team.
The event in Milwaukee represented Bruesewitz’s first NBA pre-draft workout, and the St. Paul, Minn., native sounded thrilled simply to have an opportunity to showcase himself.
“It’s pretty cool, man,” Bruesewitz said. “Don’t get me wrong, this is a pretty sweet life I’m living right now. I’m not doing a whole lot. I work out in the morning, hang out and then I work out at night. I get a nap in the afternoon.
“I’m not busting brain cells or anything. I’m having a pretty good time. I get to come up here, work out and show my skills off to these guys, I get a free Gatorade and I get lunch. That’s a good day. It’s a great feeling.”
Bruesewitz said his immediate goal was to make his way onto an NBA summer league team to demonstrate his abilities to prospective teams.
“If I had an opportunity to get on a summer league team, that would be a big thing for me,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind going out to Vegas for a couple of weeks. If somebody is paying me to go to Vegas, sure, why not? I’d love to get on a summer league team. If it happens, awesome. If it doesn’t? I just have to keep working.”
Bruesewitz’s former Wisconsin teammate, 6-foot-10 center Jared Berggren, also was in Milwaukee as part of the pre-draft workout, but unlike Bruesewitz, he already has worked out for five teams.
Berggren, who has been training the past two months in Chicago, said he had future workouts scheduled with Orlando, Atlanta, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Clippers before the NBA Draft, which takes place on June 27.
“You just have to find the right fit,” Berggren said. “I feel like I’m a guy that can play inside and out. I’m big enough, strong enough to play around the basket, but also have the ability to step outside and shoot from the perimeter and also put the ball on the floor if the situation calls for it. Just be an all-around player, that’s what I’m trying to show in these workouts. Hopefully I can do enough to impress some teams.”
Krabbenhoft hired: Former Wisconsin forward Joe Krabbenhoft spent one season as the basketball program’s video coordinator under coach Bo Ryan. On Thursday, he left to become an assistant coach at South Dakota State University.
“We are constantly looking for good fits for our program and Joe is a great fit,” South Dakota State coach Scott Nagy said in a news release. “I think it’s a good move for him and I know it’s a good move for us. Our recruiting base is in the Upper Midwest and he is very well known in that area. If you’ve ever seen Joe play, you know he is hard working and we know he’s eager to get started.”
Krabbenhoft, a native of Sioux Falls, S.D., played at Wisconsin from 2005-09 and appeared in a school record 136 career games. He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in 2009 and is the only player in Wisconsin history to tally at least 750 rebounds and 250 assists.
The Jackrabbits reached the NCAA tournament in each of the past two seasons and finished 2012-13 with a 25-10 record.
“Big thanks to coach Ryan and everyone on staff at UW,” Krabbenhoft tweeted. “Best of luck to all the guys this year. Had a great experience and learned a lot!”
FOXSportsWisconsin.com’s Andrew Gruman contributed to this story.