Like mother like son

Brandi and Bridge Tusler share Osseo basketball tradition

By Bob San

“That Tusler is a tough, hard-nosed player. A good shooter, a good kid and a joy to coach.”

If you think we are talking about Osseo High football and basketball star Bridge Tusler, you are correct. But we could also be talking about Bridge’s mom, Brandi Tusler, who was a standout for the powerful Osseo girls’ basketball team in the early 1990s.

Brandi Tusler plays for Osseo in the 1991 state tournament. (Photo courtesy of the Minnesota State High School League)

Brandi Tusler plays for Osseo in the 1991 state tournament. (Photo courtesy of the Minnesota State High School League)

Brandi Tusler played two years for the Orioles in 1990 and 1991. In those days, the Osseo teams were known for having rugged players and playing a rough-and-tumble style of basketball. Tusler was one of those “mean” Orioles.

“Brandi was a tough, hard-nosed player,” said Dave Thorpe, the former Osseo coach who built Osseo into a perennial powerhouse. A member of the Minnesota Girls’ Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Thorpe is now retired and living near Orlando. “She was our defensive stopper. We put her on the other team’s top player. She was also a good shooter from beyond the three-point line. She was a good kid and a joy to coach.”

Brandi Tusler remembers those years fondly. Thorpe led Osseo to its first state tournament in 1987 and won the school’s first basketball state championship in 1989. Ever since, Osseo has been among the state’s top girls’ basketball programs.

Bridge Tusler plays for Osseo Senior High School in the 2012 State Basketball Tournament. (Photo by Rich Moll)

Bridge Tusler plays for Osseo Senior High School in the 2012 State Basketball Tournament. (Photo by Rich Moll)

“It was fun to have the reputation of being the hard-nosed, aggressive girls,” Brandi said. “Dave Thorpe had success with all his teams. Osseo girls’ basketball kind of really left its mark during that time period and I think it has continued on. They still have a great program.”

In 1991, Brandi Tusler was a starting guard on the Osseo team that went to the state tournament and finished third. Twenty years later her son, Bridge, was a starting guard on the Osseo team that took third in the 2011 state tournament. Brandi wore No. 50 in 1991 and Bridge wore No. 50 in 2011.

“We didn’t realize until after it happened that it was exactly 20 years apart that we both took third place wearing No. 50 jerseys,” said Brandi, who broke a state tournament record for free throws made in the third-place game against Irondale. “That was exciting. It just seems a rare occurrence. It was fun to be a part of.”

Bridge is well aware of his mom’s glory days at Osseo.

“I definitely know her background coming into my junior year,” Bridge said. “That’s why I wear No. 50 because she wore No. 50 as well.”

Brandi, Bridge and Josiah Tusler celebrated in Target Center after Osseo captured the state basketball championship last March. (Photo courtesy of the Tusler family)

Brandi, Bridge and Josiah Tusler celebrated in Target Center after Osseo captured the state basketball championship last March. (Photo courtesy of the Tusler family)

The same number is not the only thing Brandi and Bridge share. They also share a very similar style of play and a determined attitude.

“I guess I see some similarities,” Brandi said. “My strengths were definitely defensive and Bridge is a strong defensive player. I just think we are naturally aggressive and excel in that area. Bridge has always been athletic and good at what he chose to participate in. More than anything it’s his attitude. He always works hard, hustles really hard. His attitude and his will to be the best he can be has helped him in everything he has done.”

Bridge occasionally is reminded of that.

“There were time I’d be sitting in the gym and someone would come up to me and say, ‘Hey, you play a lot like your mom,’” Bridge said. “Sometimes I’d do something and my grandparents would say, ‘that reminds me a lot of your mom.’ I kind of get the feeling that I play a lot like my mom, kind of a little mean, feisty and really aggressive. I think I learn a lot from her. Growing up, she shapes my attitude toward things and she says I have a great attitude to push myself so I think it also comes from her because she was the one raising me. So yes, I would say I learned most of my games from my mom.”

Brandi has taught her son well for Bridge has used his athleticism and will power to develop into the best two-sport athlete in the state.

“Bridge is a tough, hard-nosed player and a fantastic defender,” Osseo boys’ basketball coach Tim Theisen said. “He is our hardest worker and he communicates and inspires others to get better. He is like an extension of our coaching staff on the court.”

For many years when she was living outside of Minnesota, Brandi never dreamed that one day her son would follow her footsteps and play at Osseo.

“I moved out of the area for quite a while, so I not necessarily knew I’d be back here,” Brandi said. “So it’s exciting and flattering that Bridge wants to wear my number.”

Once Brandi moved back to Minnesota, Osseo is the place for Bridge to go to school.

“You can’t beat Osseo. It’s a great place to go to school,” Brandi said. “The administration is phenomenal, the teachers really care about the students and want them to succeed, and it’s just an all-around good experience for me. I just can’t say enough good things about Osseo.”

Osseo High is certainly glad that Brandi came home and Bridge became an Oriole. Bridge has enjoyed great success at Osseo. He starred for the football team for three seasons. In basketball, he went to state and took third place in his sophomore year and last year went to state again as a junior and won the state championship.

Next week, Brandi will be watching when Bridge and the Orioles open the 2012-13 season. For Bridge, playing for the same school his mom played for and wearing the same number is something unique.

“It is great feeling to go out on the Osseo court, knowing my mom played here,” Bridge said. “My family went through this program. It was my mom and now I get a chance to. I am not only representing Osseo and the community, but also representing my family. It puts a lot more on your shoulders and it’s worth a lot more playing for. You are not just playing for yourself but you are playing for everyone else who care a lot about you.”

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