October 16, 2010

Hoops season underway

MADISON - Just call this a tune-up, or perhaps a whetting of the Badger athletic appetite, if you will.

On a day where the UW football team hopes to take a step towards becoming a legitimate Big Ten title contender with a win over No. 1 Ohio State, the UW basketball team kicked things off at the field house.

In front of 2,650 energetic friends, the Wisconsin basketball team kicked off the 2010 season with a 32-minute intra-squad scrimmage.

"It was a nice crowd," head coach Bo Ryan said. "They filled in the bottom bowl. I was excited for our players to get a chance to get in here and get in front of people. That's what's neat, especially with the rookies.

"When you can get them some possessions in front of a crowd that's good."

The White team, led by Jon Leuer, Ryan Evans and Keaton Nankivil, upended the Red squad, led by Jordan Taylor, Rob Wilson and Jared Berggren, 65-44.

Evans led all scorers with 15 points.

"He had one of those games," Ryan said. "It's such a streaky thing that shooting can be sometimes. Ryan has always been pretty consistent. It's not like he was a bad shooter last year, he just didn't get as many opportunities.

"He's better this year at creating his opportunities off the bounce, off the step-back and off the attack. His court awareness is a lot better."

Observations from courtside:

Before I give a quick scouting report on each player, here's the injury report.

-J.P. Gavinski did not play and watched the festivities in jeans and a team windbreaker.

-Tim Jarmusz did not play and was introduced with a boot on his right foot.

-Dan Fahey did not participate as he had his left arm in a sling.

According to Ryan, those three players were injured in the first practice of the season held earlier Saturday morning.

"We were just doing our normal stuff," Ryan said. "We were just having some fun. Guys were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. That's all."

Here are the scouting reports. Keep in mind that this was only once scrimmage that was held on the first day of official practice.

WHITE TEAM: 65

-Ryan Evans: Led all scorers with 15 points. His jump shot was pretty automatic. He looked a bit more comfortable and more assertive than he did a season ago. His athleticism still ranks high on the team. Evans was able to throw in a powerful dunk on a fast break and he was well above the rim before throwing it down.

"He's older and guys are supposed to get better," Ryan said.

-Jon Leuer: Finished with 11 points. Looked to be very aggressive on the boards, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Remained dominant in the post. He made very difficult shots look incredibly easy. He also dunked in traffic, proving he has no reservations in regards to attacking the rim.

-Keaton Nankivil: Finished with 12 points. As far as big men go on the UW roster, Nankivil might just have the sweetest shot. His stroke is very pure from mid range out to the perimeter. His defense in the post was also very impressive.

-Brett Valentyn: Finished with six points on two three-point bombs. Even watching Valentyn in practice over the years, it has become very apparent he is confident with his shot, particularly from downtown. And he should. He likely won't figure into the regular rotation, but he's a guy that will make the most of his opportunities during the non-conference portion of the season.

-Josh Gasser: Finished with nine points from three, three's. Gasser is a very impressive shooter. Not afraid to release the ball with a defender in his face. He's confident handling the rock and pretty solid offensively. Defensively, he has a ways to go. But he looks to be a guy that could find playing time as a true freshman.

"He's a player," Ryan said. "He's a player."

-Ben Brust: Finished with seven points. He is tenacious on the offensive side of the ball. He makes very sharp cuts and is mostly very smart with the ball in his hands. He also made it clear that he's not afraid to get on the floor and dive after loose balls. He also proved to have the touch from distance. Brust, like Gasser, should figure into the rotation this season.

-Wquinton Smith: Finished with five points. As a senior that's been in the program for a number of years, it seemed Smith made too many mental mistakes. Granted, it is the first practice of the season so that won't be held against him. But some of the decision making was questionable at best. I guess it is October.

RED TEAM: 44

-Jordan Taylor: Finished with 11 points. The first thing that jumped out about Taylor was the fact that he's looking a bit slimmer than he did a year ago. He's still very muscular, but he looks to be a bit leaner. It seemed to me that he had a different gear and had a burst that was able to get him deep into the hole.

"I haven't really noticed," Taylor said. "Maybe I'm just working harder and I haven't noticed. I don't know."

His jump shot remained pretty sharp and his defense was pretty tenacious. Taylor looked very sharp.

-Rob Wilson: Finished with nine points. Wilson continued to show flashes of athleticism that may be unrivaled by anyone on the squad. He just needs to find that consistency. It was very apparent that Wilson was ready and willing to mix it up in the paint, though and that's encouraging. Defensively, he has some work to do, but he's not bad by any means.

-Jared Berggren: 10 points. Berggren has a sweet stroke for a big man. In Saturday's scrimmage, Berggren dropped two three point shots and hit a couple mid-range jumpers as well. He looked more confident as a shooter and looks to be in the mold of Brian Butch as an outside shooter. Defensively, Berggren was very active in the post. I wouldn't be surprised to see him have success this season.

-Mike Bruesewitz: Four points. Like he did all of last year, Bruesewitz found himself around loose balls on a regular basis. He didn't score many points, but he was very active all over the floor.

"How bout all the balls he gets his hands on," Ryan asked. "That's Mike Bruesewitz. He's that kind of player. He's a dynamo."

-Evan Anderson: Six points. Anderson passes the eye test. He has a very strong upper body and looks to be a very athletic big man. In Saturday's scrimmage, though others who saw him in high school may disagree, Anderson looked to bring plenty of things to the table. He was aggressive defensively and showcased a sweet jumper offensively. Though he's got a long way to go, I can see why the coaching staff was so high on him.

"People were probably like, 'Wow,' Ryan said. "They saw Evan maybe struggle in a couple high school games, but he's gotten better and he's healthy."

-Duje Dukan: Four points. Dukan also looked the part. Really, this four-player freshman class looked very impressive. Dukan is going to be a great shooter. He's fearless on the court. He's willing to shoot from anywhere and doesn't need much space to pull the trigger.

-J.D. Wise: No points. Wise, as a relatively new player to the program, probably won't contribute much in actual games this year. That doesn't mean he won't contribute during practice throughout the year where he'll be a productive player because of his hustle and demeanor.

Quick notes:

-Former Badger great Michael Finley was in the crowd and received a standing ovation from the Field house faithful.

-Jason Bohannon was in attendance.

-Several Badger players from yester-year were also in attendance, including coach John Erickson who led the 1962 Badgers to an upset win over No. 1 Ohio State.

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