November 4, 2008

Open basketball practice observations

MADISON, Wis. - For the first time in the young season, the Wisconsin basketball team held opened practice for the final 45 minutes. Following the team's first game action, albeit an exhibition, members of the media, as well as boosters, had an opportunity to take in what the Badgers do behind doors.

The following are some observations made during the scrimmage portion of Monday night's practice:

Senior Joe Krabbenhoft:

He looks to be more comfortable and willing to score with the ball than he had in previous years. At one point he received a pass from Trevon Hughes on the left wing. He delivered a ball fake, juked left and beat his defender off the dribble to his right. He drove the lane, lowered his shoulder for leverage, and made an easy lay-up.

Another time down the court, Krabbenhoft took a pass from Wquinton Smith and showed no hesitation with his three-point attempt. Although he missed the shot, it was encouraging to see him catch and shoot with a favorable shot instead of looking to pass.

Sophomore Jon Leuer:

It seemed Leuer was making the most of his opportunity against an undersized defender in Morris Cain throughout the scrimmage. He consistently backed Cain down and was physical in the post. He showcased some nice moves at the low block and showed a propensity to draw the foul.

He also stepped out and canned a shot from downtown. Leuer can be a very valuable piece to the puzzle if he can develop a consistent low post presence. There is no doubt he likes to shoot from the perimeter but his accuracy from distance remains off-and-on. He seems to be more confident when his defender is drawn off of him instead of shooting over an outstretched arm.

Sophomore Brett Valentyn:

With Tim Jarmusz defending him the majority of the scrimmage, he was able to put points on the board. Valentyn seems to have a strong motor and high basketball IQ. He has a solid shot from downtown and does not force anything that is not there and only takes shots that present a legitimate scoring chance.

During the scrimmage period, Valentyn also showed his ability to move without the ball and utilize strong back screens for easy lay-ups. As one of the smaller guys on the roster, it is impressive how Valentyn can use his leverage to gain an open lane to the rim against smaller defenders that are matched up on him.

Sophomore Keaton Nankivil

Many people know Nankivil is a capable scorer, but at his height he will likely have to play a bit bigger than his 6-foot-8 frame suggests. On most occasions he will be anchoring the power forward or center spot and his rebounding will be essential.

During Monday night's practice, Nankivil was a beast underneath when it came to snatching the rock on missed shots. He has a quick and powerful vertical leap that helps him get to the ball faster than the next guy and he is very strong with the ball when does get it.

Tom's takes:

-Watching the five new freshmen on this year's squad, I would think Jordan Taylor will be the only one that receives a significant amount of playing time. Other than him, I believe Jared Berggren could see some minor time off the bench as he seems to be developing the quickest out of the two big men.

-I am interested to see how Bo Ryan uses, if at all, Morris Cain. In watching the former Nicollet high school standout, he seems like he could be effective off the bench in a limited role.

He has a smooth and quick shot that is accurate, especially from behind the arc, and seems to play smart on the court. His quick feet could also help create turnovers.

-Where does J.P. Gavinski fit on this team? I am not 100 percent sure. He seems to be a tad quicker than in previous years, but his ball skills and strength with the ball remain questionable.

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