January 21, 2009

UW basketball succeeds in the classroom

MADISON, Wis. - Sometimes when people watch their favorite collegiate team, they forget that the same athletes that hit the winning bucket or unfortunately commit the costly probably have to get up and go to class the next morning.

For some fans, the notion that these athletes have to contend with rigorous academic work does not come across as much as it potentially should. While some others know all too well about the strain playing at such a competitive level and balancing school work.

"To be honest with you, I think most of them really don't care," UW head coach Bo Ryan said. "When I say don't care, until it's a problem. Until there's a negative, and then some people really accentuate the negative."

At Wisconsin, fans have been very spoiled with not only good success on the court, but also with great success in the classroom. The UW men's basketball team recorded a cumulative 3.0 grade point average during this academic year's fall semester, the highest of any men's sports.

"Oh we're very proud of that," UW senior and team's leading rebounder Joe Krabbenhoft said. "That's what we come here to do, to get a good education. I'm proud of all my teammates for carrying the load because it's one through 17, it's not just one guy that can boost it up. It's collectively as a group."

During the 2007-08 academic year, the UW athletic department witnessed 200 student-athletes achieve Academic All-Big Ten status and 55 of them achieved a 4.0 grade point average during one of the two semesters.

Returning players from last year's men's basketball team to garner Academic All-Big Ten honors were Krabbenhoft, Morris Cain, Kevin Gullickson and Brett Valentyn. In order to qualify for that status, the letter winners have to have been in school at least three semesters with a cumulative G.P.A of 3.0 or higher.

"As a student athlete, our families are very proud of that," Krabbenhoft said. "And I hope the fans are too because that's what we came here to do, get an education and put on a show for the fans. We're trying to do both at the same time and we've been pretty productive over the last couple years.

"So, I'm pretty proud of this team and my teammates."

Coach Ryan has established a strong program on both sides of the ball through the development of players on the court and most importantly in the classroom. Now, with nearly eight years under his belt, it does not come as a surprise to see his team excel in the classroom, especially when a relatively small number of his players have continued their basketball careers on the professional level.

"That's what they're (the players) here for (academics)," he said. "That's why for somebody like me it's never been a surprise because you're always striving. It's just like if you get one in the left hand side, you don't act like you've never been there. If you get some on the right hand side you don't act like you have no clue as to what you're doing.

"Every day's a challenge and go meet it. I thought these guys seem to be doing a great job of that and have balanced things that were presented to them. So that's good."

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