Mitch Bruneel and the Wolverines start title defense as WAC regular season champion.
Tim Castaneda | Sports Writer | @xTIMBOxSLICEx
UVU men’s basketball senior forward Mitch Bruneel earned his first-ever player of the week honor in the Western Athletic Conference for the week of games covering Jan. 5-11 with an outstanding performance against Seattle University.
Bruneel led his team to victory in this season’s conference-opener with a stellar performance by scoring 27 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, both career-highs. The Boise, Idaho, native’s double-double was the first posted by a Wolverines player this season.
During the only game of the week played by the Wolverines, he outscored the entire Seattle team in the first half with 20 points by shooting 7-for-8 from the field, including a perfect 4-for-4 from the 3-point line. He capped off his hot shooting from 3-point range in the first half by nailing his final shot of the game from the corner at the buzzer.
The honor comes after Bruneel, who sat out of the Wolverines’ contest against SEC school Arkansas due to illness, took advantage of preparation and came ready to play against the Redhawks.
“I was feeling pretty good. I think a long week of preparation helped with that,” said Bruneel after the game versus Seattle. “I didn’t get to play in the Arkansas game so I had to make up for it somehow.”
UVU head coach Dick Hunsaker dubbed the performance a true “heart and soul” effort and used the word “workhorse” to describe his star player.
The senior forward continues to show improvement upon experience gained from previous seasons, which has helped him in having the best season of his collegiate career.
Bruneel leads the team in scoring and rebounds with averages of 13.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, while hitting 52.6 percent of his shots. Those numbers are up from last season in which he averaged 10.3 points and 5.2 rebounds for the WAC regular season champion Wolverines.
The path traveled by the former high school Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year, who played at two different schools prior to coming to UVU, has given him the experience needed to lead a NCAA Division I basketball team.
In his lone season at the College of Southern Idaho, Bruneel started his career averaging 10 points and 5.2 rebounds per game as a freshman to help his team win the NJCAA national championship. He later transferred to Utah State University, where he averaged a career-low 4.1 points per game and only started nine games.
Now, with his outstanding effort on the court, the 6-foot-5 forward leads his team into a hopeful second-year campaign in the WAC as the reigning conference champion.
“Mitch has been a team leader with his effort and energy,” said coach Hunsaker. “It’s nice to see his work acknowledged.”
As the Wolverines look to capture their second-straight WAC title, the hard work and energy Bruneel provides each game may be the spark needed for them to achieve that feat. So far the Wolverines hold a 1-1 record in WAC play this season.