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DWU football standout Muilenburg making impact on Tiger basketball

Dakota Wesleyan’s Anthony Muilenburg goes through shooting drills at Tiger practice Friday at the Christen Family Wellness Center in Mitchell. (Nick McCutcheon/Republic)

Fans that traveled to Sioux Falls to see the Dakota Wesleyan University men’s basketball team play on Nov. 23 heard a familiar name introduced off the bench for the Tigers.

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After five years of shattering records for the DWU football team, former Tiger wide receiver Anthony Muilenburg has brought his talents to the school’s basketball team and quickly made his presence known.

Just days after the football season ended, Muilenburg was at basketball practice, making his debut just one week after removing his helmet for the last time.

Muilenburg had not played organized basketball since leaving high school, yet was able to come off the bench after just two practices for the Tigers against Nebraska Wesleyan University. He has only played in a few pick-up games since coming to DWU from Sioux Falls Lincoln High School in 2009.

“He was the first one off the bench for us in the second half of that game and played some important minutes,” DWU first-year coach Matt Wilber said of his new weapon. “He brings the type of energy that I love to see.”

Through three games, the senior is averaging 8.3 points and 21.3 minutes per game for the Tigers.

The transition from football to basketball was quick, but Muilenburg feels like he is getting in basketball shape. He admitted he felt out of shape in his first week with the team, despite just coming off a long football season.

“I was a little gassed in the game against Nebraska Wesleyan and was a little nervous to play in my first college basketball game after just two days of practice,” Muilenburg said.

Wilber recalls seeing Muilenburg play basketball at Lincoln five years ago, adding he knew what kind of talent the former wide receiver could bring on the hard court.

“It’s not like we just picked up a football player and put him in a basketball uniform,” Wilber said. “He’s got basketball instincts.”

When Wilber approached his team about adding Muilenburg, the response from his players was a resounding yes.

“In a lot of ways, coming into college basketball, he is like a freshman,” Wilber said. “His athletic ability and talent has made the move a lot easier.”

Wilber made a point to not approach Muilenburg during the football season about basketball, saying he needed to stay focused. But the day after football ended, Wilber happened to see Muilenburg on campus and the opportunity was presented.

“When I saw him I said, ‘You need to come see me quick,’ ” Wilber said. “When you talk about my recruiting, he is probably my most important recruit so far.”

The similarities between Wilber and DWU football coach Ross Cimpl made the move easier, according to Muilenburg.

“They both have that mentality where they are never satisfied and they always push us to be the best we can be,” Muilenburg said.

When he originally signed with DWU, Muilenburg intended to play both sports each year, but football came first.

DWU football fans saw Muilenburg set school records as a wide receiver, leading the Tigers to their best season in 20 years as a senior. For a few more months, the Tiger faithful will have a chance to cheer for one of the best the school has seen in a different venue.