Branstrom a force to be reckoned with

PERKINS – Mid Peninsula High School’s Brett Branstrom has been a force to be reckoned with throughout this basketball season.

The 6-foot-5 senior center has scored from inside, hit 3-point shots and taken the ball up the court, grabbed rebounds, blocked shots and a variety of other tasks for the Wolverines, who are 13-7 heading into their Class D district opener at North Central Monday night.

Despite often being double and triple-teamed, Branstrom is averaging more than 25 points and 21 rebounds a game.

In a 52-49 triumph over Forest Park on Feb. 6, he scored 21 points to go with a school-record 34 rebounds.

“It’s just hard work and postioning,” he said. “That’s what rebounding is all about. Forest Park is big and physical. But they were cold from the floor that night and that’s what helped me out.”

That was the third time Branstrom set the school rebounding record this year. He had 29 boards to go with 21 points in a 71-44 conquest of Big Bay de Noc Jan. 14. Branstrom then recorded a career-high 37 points and 30 rebounds in a 62-55 loss at Carney-Nadeau Feb. 1.

He had 24 points, 17 boards and four assists in a 54-41 loss to North Central in Thursday’s regular-season finale.

“North Central is definitely the hardest team to rebound against this year,” said Branstrom. “They’re big, physical and athletic. They can jump and they hit the boards hard. Carney is also a challenge. They really attack the boards. Both conferences are real tough. You have to play hard every night. Even the teams in the bottom of the conference can sneak up on you.”

The amazing rebounding output has Branstrom climbing the state ladder as well. He currently ranks among the all-time state leaders with 1,311 career rebounds. He has 422 this season alone.

His career scoring total stands at 1,744 and has 410 blocked shots for an average of five per contest.

Branstrom’s 34-rebound effort against Forest Park doubled the output of previous school-recordholder Ted Hanson, who had 17 boards against Gladstone in 1992.

“Ted comes into practice and works with Brett,” said coach Mark Branstrom. “It’s a great match-up. Ted is so physical and it really gets Brett going. That’s why I think Brett can handle everything on the court because he’s so used to playing with Ted.”

Included in all the heavy attention Brett received have been some of the gimmick defenses, such as the box-in-one.

“When teams play a box-in-one, they make it hard for me to get the ball,” said Brett. “It’s hard to get offensive rebounds and shots inside the 3-point line. Although, I haven’t seen it as much this year because Chad (Branstrom) has been shooting well from outside. His shooting has made it harder for teams to use gimmick defenses.”

What does Brett enjoy most about basketball?

“I just love everything about basketball,” he says. “I’m totally into the game. It really didn’t seem like I had as many rebounds as I did that night against Forest Park. Anytime you set a record it’s awesome because nobody else from your school has done it. Yet, you really can’t get too caught up with it.”

Brett, who has drawn recruiting interest from Michigan Tech and St. Norbert College and earlier from West Point, says the Wolverines have also been forced to overcome some adversity.

In a 67-61 victory over Gladstone on Jan. 3, the Wolverines lost Evan Winkelbauer to a season-ending ankle injury.

“This is by far the most adversity we’ve faced with Evan getting hurt,” said Brett, who has played varsity ball since eighth grade. “That changed everything for us because we went down from four experienced starters to three. But that also made us closer as a team. We knew we just had to work a little harder.”

As for his college choice, Brett says he’s still undecided.

“I’m holding out till the end,” he added. “I don’t want to make my move too soon.”

His father and coach Mark Branstrom is confident Brett will be successful no matter what he chooses to do.

“As far as I’m concerned, Brett has a brilliant future whether it’d be basketball or anything else in life,” said Mark. “He has always been a real good student. We’ve never had any problems with him.”