MADISON - For a Wisconsin team many thought would finish in the lower quarter of the Big Ten standings, the 2009-10 season didn't turn out too bad.
Whether it was the emergence of Jordan Taylor at the point guard position, Rob Wilson's improved confidence or the youthful exuberance of Mike Bruesewitz, there is plenty to look forward to as the 2010-11 approaches.
Now, after a somewhat disheartening loss to Cornell put an earlier than expected stamp on the season, BadgerBlitz.com unveils part three of its continuing 'Recapping the season' feature. This time around, returning players are at the forefront.
WHO IS COMING BACK:
Starters from 2009-10: Jon Leuer, Jordan Taylor, Tim Jarmusz and Keaton Nankivil.
In his 24 games of action this season, Leuer proved his worth on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Offensively, Leuer is a sort of hybrid post player that creates the best chance for the Badgers to score the ball within the flow of the offense. Outside of Leuer, no other Badger has a low-post game as polished as Leuer's.
The 6-foot-10 forward can take opponents off the dribble, issue a move with his back to the basket or hit a shot from the perimeter. He finished the season as the team's leading scorer (15.4 ppg) shot blocker (32) and shooter among regular players (52.2 percent from the floor). He also finished third on the team in rebounds per game (5.8).
Defensively, it was obvious during his nine-game absence with a wrist injury, that Leuer's defensive presence was sorely missed. No longer were the Badgers as stout on the boards and no longer did the length of the Badger's defense seem to bother teams.
When Illinois came to the Kohl Center and handed the Badgers a critical loss at the height of the Big Ten race, Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale destroyed UW with the pick and roll. Had Leuer been in the lineup, as was the case at Illinois later in the season, things may have been different simply because his size alters shots.
While he has plenty of things to work on as he prepares for his final season in the cardinal and white. Leuer will return plenty of game action and should have an opportunity to serve as a team leader throughout much of the season.
There is no question that Taylor entered the 2009-10 season as the most improved player on the Badger roster. After dabbling with a few minutes of playing time as a true freshman out of Minnesota, Taylor saw his minutes rise, and rise quickly as a sophomore.
Before Leuer's injury in early January, Taylor had to be close, if not at the top, of Big Ten leader board for sixth man of the year. The rise and improvement from year one to year two was simply fascinating.
Before Leuer's injury, Taylor was proving his worth as a guard that distributed the ball and didn't turn it over. He was, in essence, the best true point guard on the squad. When he was thrust into the starting lineup, one that featured three guards, Taylor also proved he could score.
By the end of the season, Taylor was UW's fourth leading scorer with a cool 10 points per game. He will also return to the squad as a junior as the player with the most minutes. His 29.5 minutes per game place third behind departing seniors Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon. That game experience will do nothing but help aid Taylor and the rest of his teammates as his career continues.
Nankivil may very well be the most athletic player on the Badger roster. It seems like the room is the only thing slowing his vertical leap and athleticism on the boards. He is simply a high-flyer that has the ability to play above rim while imposing himself on opposing defenders.
The only question with the senior to be is if he can develop a mean streak that will allow him to reach his lofty potential. He has a great stroke for a 6-foot-8 forward that helps pull interior defenders away from the rim. But his back to the basket game is virtually non-existent.
Should Nankivil develop a post game, and a disposition to dominate the paint, he can truly become a force both offensively and defensively that the team can rely on with the departure of two senior guards.
Jarmusz started 27 games for the Badgers and served his role as a solid, but not great, defender and hard working glue guy. He may not put the points on the board every night, but he would work hard to get loose balls and rebounds that would create opportunities for the scorers on the roster.
As he enters his senior season, Jarmusz will need to regain his offensive confidence after it seemed to leave him as his 29 percent shooting percentage from beyond the arc suggested. Should he find his shooting stroke that he had at times during his underclassman years, Jarmusz could be a welcome surprise and serviceable weapon for the Badger offense.
Key youngsters: Ryan Evans, Rob Wilson, Mike Bruesewitz and Jared Berggren.
If anyone proved the vast amount of potential they have as a player during the course of the season, it was Ryan Evans. As a raw prospect out of Arizona, Evans proved he has the athleticism to become a key player on the Badger wing.
Evans played in every single game of the season as a redshirt freshman, averaging just over 13 minutes per game. He showed flashes of an offensive game with a couple double digit scoring games throughout the season, most recently against Cornell in the season finale.
Hopefully, as the summer progresses into the fall, Evans can make considerable gains on his offensive skill set. His shot is a little timid at times and his non-conventional motion makes it rather inconsistent. He likes to play on the low block, but will need to get a bit stronger to finish plays around the rim with as much size there is in the Big Ten.
The foundation is there for Evans to become a big time player for Bo Ryan. He just needs to continue progressing so his vast potential can be reached.
Of all the guards on the Badger roster, it seems as though Wilson is one of the more comfortable ones playing on the low block. He is fearless on the interior and almost plays like he's on a mission to prove he can become a scorer on the low block.
He has good length for a shooting guard and does a decent enough job handling the ball. He, like Evans, has laid a foundation that could potentially mold them into a great Big Ten basketball player.
Confidence and will to improve will be the only thing that can hold him back as he prepares for his junior season.
As a true freshman, Bruesewitz saw game action in 28 of UW's 33 games. He proved he has a knack for collecting rebounds as his two rebounds in only 7.6 minutes of play (on average) suggests.
He is a relentless hustler on the defensive side of the ball and seemed to be making strides in that department as the season progressed. During the off-season, one could be certain that Bruesewitz will work on shoring up his jump shot so he can become an effective scorer for the Badgers moving forward.
With a shoulder injury that seemed to hamper the freshman seven-footer for most of the year, Berggren still managed to see time in more than half of UW's 33 games. He wasn't a legitimate scoring threat and struggled on the defensive side of the ball. Though you can practice and practice those two things with your teammates, strides usually become more visible once a player gets game action.
As he moves into his third year in the program, Berggren seems to be the big on the Badger roster with the most potential. As a shooting big man and one with great length and athleticism, he could really make an impact for a team that lacks an inside presence other than Leuer.
There were several occasions during practice throughout the year that Wquinton Smith looked capable of contributing to the Badger offense. Next year, with a relative lack of guards on the roster, Smith may get his chance to become a regular in the rotation.
With a build similar to Taylor's, Smith is one of, if not the strongest, player on the team. He can handle the ball with relative ease and seems capable of contributing next year.
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