Playing pickup basketball games on summer nights between the painted lines of her driveway with her siblings Talya and Bailey, Tessa Brugler learned to bring physicality and competitiveness.

But that wasn’t always there. The Drexel forward didn’t hit her growth spurt until her sophomore year of high school when she began leaning into the forward position.

“At first it was a bit challenging because I wasn’t as physical and I didn’t want to play inside the paint as much,” said Brugler, who is 6-foot-1. “But then once I got into college, I was playing against girls who were bigger and stronger than me.

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“My freshman and sophomore year [at Bucknell], I was battling one of the best players in the Patriot League every day at practice and she always pushed me to outwork her to get position.”

After four years at Bucknell, Brugler transferred to Drexel as a graduate student and has made an immediate impact. The former Patriot League All-Defensive Team selection is averaging 16 points and 9.3 rebounds per game for 2-1 Drexel. She also has nine blocks in three games, including six against La Salle in a 71-65 victory on Wednesday.

“I think I bring something different to the team than they used to have,” Brugler said. “Coach Amy [Mallon] talks a lot about how they didn’t have that back-to-the-basket post player presence. But I think rebounding is something that I bring to this team at Drexel, and it’s helping push my teammates to battle to outwork everyone.”

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Brugler had 17 points and 11 rebounds against La Salle, her second double-double in three games, but she isn’t focused on stats.

“If the team comes out with a win and I’m able to contribute in one way or another, that’s all that matters,” Brugler said. “The numbers are just numbers to me.”

A two-time captain at Bucknell, Brugler is trying to lead by example at Drexel.

“They have all the pieces,” she said. “I’m just trying to jump in and do everything I can to help them be successful. We already have great leaders on the team. I think overall I just try to complement them on the way that they play so we can be successful as a whole.”

Brugler fell in love with the family aspect of the team.

“Amy talked a lot about wanting to build a program, not necessarily a team, and I think that really sold me on Drexel,” she said. “The team is really fun to play with. We have that trust and we’re able to be honest and open with one another on the court.”

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Drexel, the defending Colonial Athletic Association champion, plays at Maryland-Eastern Shore at 2 p.m. Saturday.

“We’re a team that we may not have it all together, but together we have it all,” Mallon said. “We’re learning a lot about our players, even me as a coach, coaching Tessa. This is my only year with her, so practice is a little different in unique situations. I’m hoping as we continue to grow as a team, the wins keep coming with that.”

Brugler hopes to be a part of another CAA tournament run.

“For the team, I want to get back to the CAA championship,” she said. “To be able to do that with this team would be awesome, but I think just overall right now we still have some things we need to work on.

“As a team, it’s about pushing each other every day to work on the little things, because the little things matter.”