By TOM LEA
MADISON – Reporters were allowed to watch the Wisconsin’s men’s basketball team practice Monday afternoon, marking the first such practice media members were allowed such access since the team opened practice Oct. 13.
The team focused largely on press-breaking drills (particularly after a missed free throw), possessions with the shot clock winding down and some full court scrimmaging during the 35 minutes of practice open to the media.
The teams were split up as follows, though it’s entirely too early to read into what the potential lineups may be based off this split:
Red: Jared Berggren, George Marshall, Josh Gasser, Sam Dekker, Zac Showalter, Frank Kaminsky and Dan Fahey
White: Ben Brust, Zach Bohannon, Ryan Evans, Traevon Jackson, Evan Anderson, Duje Dukan, Jordan Smith and J.D. Wise
*Mike Bruesewitz did not practice. He’s recovering from a right leg laceration that will keep him sidelined for a number of weeks. He was shooting free throws, various set shots and even a few trick shots during and after practice, though.
Again, these are observations from 35 minutes of open practice. None of these thoughts should be taken as gospel. They’re just thoughts.
-Sam Dekker looked good, but he also looked human. With as much hype as he enters the program with (five star, top-20 national prospect) it’s going to be interesting to see how he continues to develop over the next few weeks. He showed glimpses of greatness both offensively (drilled a 3-pointer in Ryan Evans’ face) and defensively (broke up an alley-oop pass to Evans and collected a handful of rebounds).
But he also showed his youth on back-to-back possessions when trying to inbound the basketball during press-break drills. After Ben Brust knocked down a free throw, Dekker tried passing the ball to Josh Gasser from the baseline. But without much force on the throw, Brust was able to easily intercept the pass.
When Brust made yet another free throw, Dekker tried getting the ball to Jared Berggren on the inbounds pass, but threw it too low. The ball squirted through Berggren’s legs and into the hands of the defender. Two attempts, two possessions, two turnovers for Dekker.
He’ll be fine, though. He definitely has plenty of talent and his confidence seems to be sky high.
Whether or not he’s a day one starter, especially considering Bruesewitz’s injury, I have no idea. It's probably too early to tell.
-I liked the chemistry I saw between Gasser and Berggren. Gasser, running the point on several different occasions, seemed comfortable and confident getting the ball to Berggren on the low block, especially with his nifty one handed bounce pass assist for an easy layup. It’s always important for the point guard and big man to have solid chemistry, so that should be something to be excited about.
-Speaking of the point guard position, I liked what I saw out of Marshall. While I didn’t pay that much attention to him throughout the course of practice I did see him handle the ball without any problems. The coaches did get after him a little bit when he failed to attack in transition, but other than that he looked the part of an up and coming point guard. It’s too early to know what his role is going to be this season, but one could assume he’ll probably get a handful of minutes, if not more.
-Ryan Evans really came on strong as the year went along last season. A major part of that was his ability to knock down the mid-range jumper. He didn’t really shoot any of those during the scrimmage portion of practice, but I did see him pull up from 3-point land in transition at one point. Probably not his best shot, though his jumper did a look a little more fluid than it has in the past. He still didn’t look very smooth when handling the ball.
-Watching Evans and Dekker battle in the post is pretty fun. I like the physicality Dekker plays with. The biggest thing young players need to do in order to see playing time under Bo Ryan is to defend with tenacity. It seemed as though Dekker, though it was just one 35-minute portion of practice, did a nice job of that.
-I thought Duje Dukan looked confident when he was out there. He knocked down a 3-pointer in transition and didn’t struggle defensively as much as he has in the past. I wonder what kind of role he’ll play now as a junior.
-Frank Kaminsky looked like a different person. He was entirely thinned out and looked much more agile on the court. He was running up and down the court with speed and grace. I liked what he was able to do in the transition game. I think he’s going to play a pretty big role on this team as the season progresses.
-I was also impressed with Evan Anderson’s offensive game, particularly his baby hook shot. Defensively, though, he has to get out of the habit of committing bailout fouls. In order to do so he’ll have to continue working on his footwork. I’m not sure if he’ll be a contributor this season, but he’ll be a very good practice player for the rest of the bigs.
-Ben Brust is very quick. I was impressed with his ability to get past defenders.
-Zac Showalter has some hops. I also like the energy he plays with. He’s a fun kid to watch.
-Traevon Jackson looks very smooth with the ball in his hands. He’ll factor into Ryan’s rotation before it’s all said and done this season.
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