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Published January 12 2012

Bruggeman's dedication paying off for Pelican Rapids

Pelican Rapids, Minn.

Feelings.

Those are what Pelican Rapids senior shooting guard Casey Bruggeman uses as a compass in just about everything relating to basketball.

If he feels he has a bad shooting night, he’ll come into the gym after a game and work on his shooting for 30 minutes to an hour.

“There was a game we had against Stephen-Argyle,” said sophomore point guard Ryan Bruggeman, Casey’s brother. “He didn’t shoot well. So I was outside waiting for him and asked where he was, and they told me he was in the gym shooting. I told him we had a game the next day, but he still wanted to work on his shooting.”

Bruggeman’s approach to the game has resulted in more than just leading his team with 17 points per game. Or making his younger brother wait for a ride home.

It has helped him convey to his teammates what it will take for the Vikings (7-3) to reach their ultimate goal of winning a state title.

The Vikings are the No. 9 team in Minnesota Class 2A this season and have a tradition of being an area power.

Orange-colored banners with black lettering hang throughout the gym, and one of the more prominent ones was the school’s 2009 state title. Casey Bruggeman was a freshman that year.

“There wasn’t room for him on the team that year,” said Vikings coach Brad Strand, who is in his 16th season at the school. “But he was one of three players on our team now who got the chance to go.”

Bruggeman was the team’s statistician, but he still got a chance to experience the title run as if he was playing.

He was at every practice. He was in the hotel rooms the night before the big games. He was in the locker room when the Vikings celebrated a state title.

“That was such an awesome feeling to see those guys get to celebrate like that,” he said. “It gives me goose bumps just thinking about it, you know?”

Now imagine what last season was like when section rival Perham went on to win the Class 2A title.

It was tough.

The seniors at both schools have had a rivalry going back to since they were in grade school.

“I think it’s always been tough for them playing Perham,” Ryan Bruggeman said. “Going back to elementary school, Perham just always seemed to get the better of them.”

Bruggeman acknowledges getting to the state tournament means getting past Perham, the No. 3 team in Class 2A.

Perham (10-1) already has one win against its rival this year, but there’s another game left between the two in the regular season.

“I hope there’s a third game,” Bruggeman said, referring to the fact both teams could meet for a section title.

If there is a third game, you can bet Bruggeman will be ready.

Ryan Bruggeman estimated that between games, practices and impromptu shooting sessions, his brother spends around 20 hours a week at the gym.

Part of that comes from being a coach’s son, as their dad is an assistant on the team.

Bruggeman said having a coach as a father helped build his love for the game.

“I have daughters who are around the same age,” Strand said. “And you love it when you see them going into the gym and you don’t have to go in there with them.”

Bruggeman said when he has a bad game, he just feels it. His shot feels a little too short or long. His timing will be off.

When that happens, it’s off to the gym.

But on the nights where his shot feels great, it’s a different story. In a recent game against Moorhead, he scored 34 points, going 13-for-14 from the field while making his first 11 shots.

“I love it when I have games like that,” he said. “To me, that’s what you play for. You play to win. I love that feeling.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark’s Force blog can be found

at slightlychilled.areavoices.com