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"My Mentality" - By Ryan Bruggeman

Ryan Bruggeman is a professional basketball player in Bosnia & Herzegovina. A graduate of Pelican Rapids High School (MN), Ryan is the all-time leader in points and assists at Southwest Minnesota State University.


One of the greatest basketball players ever, Kobe Bryant, coined the term “Mamba Mentality” when describing his work ethic and approach to the game of basketball.

Kobe said,

“Mamba Mentality simply means to be able to constantly try to be the best version of yourself… it’s a constant quest to try to be better today than you were yesterday.”

Now there aren’t very many Kobe’s in the world, and everyone person is a little different, but finding what drives you will allow for you to reach places you never thought you could reach.

My name is Ryan Bruggeman. I am a 6’0… okay more like 5’11, 185 pound point guard from Pelican Rapids, Minnesota. After playing for Pelican Rapids High School, I was able to join the Southwest Minnesota State University Men’s Basketball team and now I play professionally for HKK Zrinjski in Mostar, Bosnia.

Seems like a simple road, but it was actually met with a lot of adversity and doubt from outside sources. I believe my mentality, although not anything close to the Mamba Mentality, allowed me to chase my dreams at every level.

In high school, I was around 5’11 and 155 pounds. I was a solid athlete for a high school kid, but I lacked a lot of physical attributes most college players have. I was lucky enough to have my brother, Casey, push me to my limits before I really knew what it took. We weren’t very efficient or smart about how we worked out at that age. But one thing I can say was we had a persistence to us. One way or another we were going to figure it out.

That allowed me to find a toughness within myself that would become my edge moving forward.

In high school I also learned about playing for my teammates. I played for some pretty good teams. We won a ton of games and a couple conference championships, but we were never able to play in or compete for a state championship, which was the ultimate goal.

I gave everything to that I had to those guys and that program with the belief that if I help enough people get what they want that it would come full circle and I would be rewarded.

But that’s not how it worked.

I was barely recruited out of high school even after averaging around 26 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists per game. I received a couple D2 offers, but nothing crazy or much interest in me.

Brad Bigler, the head coach at Southwest Minnesota State University, ended up reaching out very late in the recruiting process, and I took a day trip down to Marshall, Minnesota.

On the visit he offered me a $1,000 scholarship. He told me that he couldn’t make any promises about playing time in my career, but said he would give me every opportunity to play if I earned it. He also said that the same offer was out to another player and whoever accepts it first would get the spot.

That next week I accepted Bigler’s offer and was off to SMSU with a huge chip on my shoulder.

Once I stepped on campus I did the only thing I knew how to do… work as hard as I possible could.

I redshirted my first year, putting on 20 pounds of muscle and constantly getting road in practice by the older guys. Slowly, I was gaining respect and trust from my teammates. And the coaching staff pushed me to work harder. The feeling of teammates wanting to play with me pushed me.

In my second year I remember having a meeting with Coach Bigler. In that meeting he gave me “the keys” to the team. Basically an unproven “walk-on” just got the keys to the team? Yeah, your reaction is probably the same as mine was that day.

That year we grinded our way to a 13-15 record, losing in the first round of the conference tournament. Even after the tough year, similar to high school, there was still an unwavering belief in my teammates and coaches surrounding me.

I allowed that belief to fuel me to get better and help this team reach our goals.

The next three years was the ride of a lifetime. We compiled a 71-29 record and played in the next three-conference tournament championship games. We won one tournament championships, two regular season championships and made it to the NCAA tournament twice.

While I was still focused on the team, I really found myself coming into my own. I went from being barely recruited out of high school to one of the most respected players in one of the best D2 conferences in the nation.

The doubt drove me and put a chip on my shoulder that will stay there forever. To this day,. whenever I get doubted it simply pushes me to get back to work.

No, I don’t have THE Mamba Mentality, but I have a mentality of my own that is unique and it has helped me reach my dreams. That mentality is centered around surrounding myself with great people. If I work as hard as I can to help them to reach their goals, mine own goals will be reached.


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