October 25, 2009

Catching up: Keaton Nankivil

MADISON - With the annual Wisconsin red-white scrimmage set to take place in a matter of hours, BadgerBlitz.com will spend the day leading up to the even by featuring several individual players.

Closing out the series is junior center Keaton Nankivil. Following a season where the former Madison Memorial standout got stronger as the season went on, many Badger fans are excited to see what the talented player can do this season.

The following is a question and answer with Nankivil.

Through the first couple of practices what have you seen from the team?

Nankivil: I really like our chemistry so far. We've really gone after it in all the drills and we have a little more experience with only two freshmen this year instead of the several we had last year. It helps getting into the drills smooth and all the reads and things that coach kind of had to walk us through even during my sophomore year, I think just smoothes everything out with what we've been working all summer.

You guys only lose two players that contributed on a game-by-game basis in Landry and Krabbenhoft. How do you replace those guys? Do you replace those guys and what do you have to do to kind of fill in and replace what those guys did for you last year?

Nankivil: It's hard to replace those two guys but I think as a team it's more than replacing just two individuals. I think everybody on our team has realized that we need to step our games up as individuals and also working together as a team because that might be our strong suit this year, how we play together.

Is there a little more pressure on you and maybe Jon Leuer to come in and kind of fill in for Joe and Marcus inside and being the physical guys with an inside presence?

Nankivil: Yeah, it definitely is a result of both of our positions and also just now that we're upper classmen and it's time for us to contribute a little bit more. I wouldn't call it pressure. It's just time to step up and play.

What have you been working on specifically in terms of your game to better yourself for the season?

Nankivil: Everything. We worked real hard lifting weights and agility and all that stuff. I feel like I'm in good shape and as far as skills and all that, just keep working everything every day and just see how much better we can get.

How big is consistency going to be for you. At times last year you came out and played great. Other times maybe you didn't play as well as you liked. How important is that to keep game in and game out to keep that intensity up?

Nankivil: It's hugely important because as a teammate to the guys on this team they need to rely on me and I need to be able to rely on everybody to be consistent. It's a part of the game that I feel like if you have it everyday, it makes everything a lot better.

It seems like every year that Wisconsin is kind of undervalued or under the radar in the Big Ten. Do you guys feel like you have what it takes to compete again for a Big Ten title and to make some noise and get into the tournament again?

Nankivil: You know, I wouldn't say I'm experienced enough to tell you that. That's something that coach Bo Ryan can answer. But I do know that just the attitude everybody on our team is that we're going to go out there and try our hardest and that's what we're going to do.

Keaton you talked about adding some weight in the weight room. How much did you add and are you comfortable with the weight you're at to withstand a Big Ten schedule?

Nankivil: I'm very comfortable with what my body is like right now. I don't know a number exactly that I've added, but I just feel like everybody on the team has really put in the work all summer. They pushed us hard to make us stronger and all that.

Going through what you guys went through last year, that six-game skid was so publicized, what do you take away from that?

Nankivil: There's a lot of stuff to take away from each game and a lot of stuff to take away from the experience as a whole. So much of it can be used in different ways so it's really an entire learning experience both in a large scale and a small scale. There are so many things, I probably wouldn't have time to talk about all the things.

What young guys can come in and really make a difference?

Nankivil: I think everybody from last year's freshman class has improved a lot and has the ability to make a difference on our team. Both the new freshmen this year, Mike Bruesewitz and Dan Fahey, they play hard every day and they're willing to bring it. So, it's only four or five practices in (at the time of the interview), so we'll see what they can contribute.

Are Jason Bohannon and Trevon Hughes really making a stand and taking charge of this team?

Nankivil: Yeah, and it's been great for us. They're not the in your face, let's go, kind of people. But, leading by example is something this team really responds to. So far they've been doing a great job of that.

You guys feel like you can be pretty big inside, too, with you going in there and Jon and Jared Berggren. You guys can have a presence inside this year, right?

Nankivil: Yeah, I hope so. It makes the game a lot easier for everybody if people like J-Bo can knock down jumpers if they're open. That's been the main goal for all of us, just do your part to help everybody else. There are five people on the floor and 15 on the team.

What do you tell the younger guys about what going through a Big Ten schedule is like? Two or three games a week, bruising, physical conference. What do you tell those guys?

Nankivil: You just got to be mentally prepared and get ready for it because it is a grind. I think if you kind of take everything as the day comes and just focus on what you have going on, you can't think too long term because it will weigh you down.

I know you've been through the Big Ten slate a few times. What does it take to withstand, especially in the post, to withstand the conference schedule?

Nankivil: It's a mental thing. That's why coach has us run the hill and work out so hard in the preseason. You just have to mentally be ready to grind it out and be willing to fight because other people are going to come at you the same way. You shouldn't expect anybody to let down.

A lot of time when freshmen come into the program it takes a little while to adjust to the college game. Have you seen that with these guys and what do you tell them?

Nankivil: We just keep telling them to play hard. Looking back to my freshman year they are both way ahead of where I was. I think just the effort that they bring is going to take them pretty far because sometimes the physical stuff isn't there right away or you might not know exactly what coach wants. As long as we have the effort and willing to work, I think that will take them pretty far.

Is there any player in particular on the entire roster that you're excited to see what they're going to be able to do this year?

Nankivil: I think everybody. We were here all season doing stuff that you guys don't get to see. We just worked hard. They pushed us and I think we're ready to go.

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