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5 Questions With College Basketball’s Leading Scorer and Nonprofit CEO Tommy Bruner

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Jordyn Reiland


Jordyn Reiland writer

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Bruner prepares for a free throw

University of Denver fifth-year guard Tommy Bruner has kept quite the busy schedule this year, but he prefers it that way.

As a member of the men’s basketball team, Bruner currently leads the NCAA in scoring (26.1 points per game as of Jan. 31) and field goals made (182).

Just a week ago, he scored 49 points in the Pioneers’ double overtime win against South Dakota — not just a career high for himself, but also the most points scored by a Division I men’s basketball player this season.

He is No. 13 on Denver’s career scoring list.

Hailing from Columbia, S.C., Bruner is also working to complete his degree — majoring in psychology with a minor in business — and he’s the founder and CEO of a nonprofit organization called Be Different, a name that was inspired by a phrase he used in high school to inspire others to be themselves.

The organization delivers toys to kids in need during the holidays, among other community activities.

The University of Denver Newsroom caught up with Bruner to find out more about his successes and how the DU community has played a significant role along the way.

How has founding this nonprofit organization been an important part of your story at DU and beyond?

Brunner and a child as part of the be different nonprofit

DU has definitely helped me. They’ve supported me a ton, and they’ve encouraged me to do it. Some people might say, ‘You’re too busy,’ but the school, the coaches, the players on the team, the faculty and staff have all encouraged me to keep going. Not just that, they’ve also given me advice, maybe someone I should call or point me in the right direction. They’ve all supported me in many ways, more than they can even imagine.

Who are your personal and professional mentors at DU and how have they supported you?

My head coach Jeff Wulbrun. He’s always in my ear on the court. Everything he tells me off the court is translated, and you see it on the court. It’s helped me become a better man, a better person, a better family guy, a better teammate, a better son.

He’s helped me in every aspect you can think of in my life; he’s my mentor, he’s my coach, he’s my friend, he’s like a father figure to me.

What is your No. 1 piece of advice for incoming first-year student athletes?

My advice would be don't give up on your dreams, your goals. Many kids grow up and they want to be doctors, firefighters, lawyers. Even if you go to college and you do communications, you can still end up being a lawyer one day. Slow motion is better than no motion — that would be my advice.

What do you appreciate most about your team?

Brunner in the air going for a two-pointer against opponent

These guys deal with problems face to face. They work together, they talk to each other, and then when you're not around those guys, you know they really have your back.

Who is your favorite professional athlete and why? Who is another athlete at DU that you admire?

I like James Harden because that was the first NBA player that I met when I was a child. Once you meet an NBA player, you never forget it — and I met him so young, so he’s always been my favorite player.

I admire the gymnastics team a lot because just being around them, they never complain about anything. Honestly, I think they have one of the hardest sports to play when it comes to their bodies. Their shoulders are always messed up, their ACLs are always torn, their ankles are split in half, but they never complain about it, and they always just walk around with smiles.

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