MILWAUKEE — Randy Breuer hasn't so much won a starting spot at center for the Milwaukee Bucks this season as he has grown into it.
When he came into the league in 1983 as a first round selection out of Minnesota, the 7-foot-3, 220-pound rookie looked like he was in danger of being snapped in two by opposing centers.
Gangly and almost frail-looking in comparison to his burlier NBA counterparts, Breuer just didn't have the bulk and muscle that go with being a big man in the NBA.
But Breuer has worked hard, and he's eaten a lot in the last three years.
Now up to 250 pounds, he looks like a pro center. And though neither he nor Coach Don Nelson are completely satisfied with his play, Breuer is contributing much more this season and has started 43 of the club's 62 games.
"Big Brew is doing just terrific. I'm very pleased with how far he's come," Nelson said. "We felt that (gaining weight and strength) was a very high priority. He didn't have a lot of muscle to throw around out there.
"We're happy with what he's done, but he's still got a long way to go."
Dubbed a "project" by Nelson when he was drafted, Breuer spent most of his first two seasons on the bench. But he also spent a lot of time year round lifting weights and working out as he tried to pad his giant frame with needed muscle.
"It took dedication," Breuer said. "To keep it on and hold it, I've got to eat four meals a day and continue to lift some weights.
"I was lifting two hours a day during the offseason, six days a week, and then I would go out and shoot baskets for two hours. It was gradual and I had time to condition myself to the weight. I definitely feel better with it. I don't have to work as hard now at holding my position."
In college Breuer was able to dominate at a lower weight. In his senior year with the Golden Gophers he averaged 20 points and 8.9 rebounds as he starred in the Big Ten, one of the most physical conferences in the country.
When Nelson made Breuer the 18th selection in the draft, he knew Breuer needed to gain weight before he could be a force in the NBA. But he was sure the young center could do it.
"One of the things we looked into was his family. His parents were thin when they were young too and put on weight in later years. We felt he could too," said Nelson.
One thing Breuer did was contact Bob Rhode, the strength and conditioning coach for the Minnesota football team.
"I had worked with him a little bit at Minnesota, and I felt he was the best person I could talk to," he said.
"He gave me some carbohydrate supplements to take with my meals and between meals. That worked out well for me. To get extra carbohydrates it made it really easy without having to eat a lot."
Breuer finds himself with an unusual problem in a society where most people are worried about weighing too much.
"Everyone kind of gives me a hard time," he said. " 'I'll give you 10 pounds of my weight,' is what I hear a lot of. Unfortunately, it doesn't work out that way. It's not that easy."
In his first two seasons Breuer was pretty much a non-factor, averaging only 4.2 points and 2.7 rebounds a game. And he admits it was not easy going from star status in the Big Ten to neglected rookie in the NBA.
"It's tough anytime you make that adjustment," he said. "I guess the hardest thing was playing behind a guy like (former star) Bob Lanier, you didn't get many minutes. They were also a winning team and that made it tougher for me.
"But I knew they considered me a project, that I would have time to develop. So that made it easier. And I knew I had to put on weight."
The extra weight and strength have paid off this season in greater stamina and power, and his statistics reflect it. He is averaging 8.5 points and 5.6 rebounds and he also has 90 blocked shots.
Breuer has had career highs this season of 19 points and 14 rebounds. Those are not superstar stats, but Breuer feels he is going in the right direction.
"I think there's no doubt I'll get better," he said. "I'm happy where I'm at. I've made a lot of improvement and started to prove my critics wrong. I'm going to work hard to get up to about 260 or 265 this summer and that will help even more.
"If it happens, it'll be great, but if it doesn't, I can live with that too."