MADISON — Basketball season is right around the corner for the Wisconsin Badgers. After a disappointing 2017-18 season, the team will be looking to be competitive in the Big Ten and reach the NCAA Tournament again after missing for the first time since 1998.
Here are three observations from media day held on Wednesday:
A healthy guard rotation
In 2017-18 the Badgers looked to have a promising rotation of guards early in the season with Brad Davison, Kobe King, D’Mitrik Trice, and Brevin Pritzl. Of those four, only Pritzl stayed healthy for the entire season. King and Trice both earned medical redshirts after undergoing season-ending surgeries following the ninth game of the season while Davison was able to put off shoulder surgery until the Monday after the Big Ten Tournament ended.
Davison did his best but was clearly hampered by his shoulder injury throughout the season as he was forced to play with a brace that attempted to keep the joint in place. The sophomore guard had his shoulder dislocate several times during his freshman season but has all that behind him now.
“The shoulder feels really good,” Davison said. It was a long process, it’s been about seven-and-a-half, almost eight months now. Feels really good, full range of motion, still trying to get full strength back in it just because it was immobilized for a while. I’m extremely happy with it, it feels good, I can move it. I’m really looking forward to getting after it this season with no brace.
“I just missed basketball in general. I think there were a lot of things I had to do to adapt and kind of change my game in order to still try to be effective. Not necessarily with the brace but just with the shoulder again. So, it feels really good to play basketball again the way I love to play and the way I know I can.”
Getting a healthy Davison back will be a huge lift for the Badgers, just as having both King and Trice will be a big help, too.
“I’m pretty closer to 100 [percent],” King said about his status. “A little bit to go, but I’m feeling better and better every week.
“Just mentally, coming off an injury and not being scared and not thinking about it too much. And then just a little bit of leg strength, but like I said it’s right there.”
While King isn’t quite ready to say he’s at 100 percent, Trice did say he’s been 100 percent since April and has been playing on the court since May.
Using a down season as motivation
It’s obvious that last season was a disappointment for this group. The Badgers have grown accustomed to making the NCAA Tournament and it’s not a secret that last year’s was the first without them since 1998.
That’s become a bit of motivation for the group. Wisconsin struggled with the injuries mentioned above as well as a bit of youth throughout the season. Ethan Happ expressed the thought that the Badgers may have been able to make a run at things had the season been a little bit longer. He makes a solid point as the Badgers did play their best basketball towards the end of the season including an upset victory over then-No. 5 Purdue at the Kohl Center and a victory in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament over Maryland.
Missing the tournament once should be more than enough motivation for this group to not let it happen again.
Happ’s NBA flirtation
Happ spent much of his offseason away from campus as he tested the waters of the NBA Draft prior to announcing that he would return to school for his final season of eligibility. The fifth-year senior worked out for several teams during the process including the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, and back-to-back NBA Champion Golden State Warriors.
That’s a process that can be taxing on most, but coach Greg Gard told the media that he thought it went about as well as it possibly could have for all parties involved.
“I thought going into it, it was going to be win-win,” Gard said. “It was very educational for him. It put him in position around people that I think helped elevate his game. I think also he brought those experiences back to our locker room with our younger guys and talked to them about what it was like to work out for Boston, or Golden State, or Milwaukee, just that whole experience. Obviously, that’s a world all 18-to-22-year-olds want to live. That’s a goal for everybody that’s sat in my office that we’ve recruited.”
Happ, and maybe a few others on the current roster will have some sort of future in the NBA, but it will be interesting to see what those futures entail. During much of the process – prior to his withdrawal from the draft – Happ was sitting in the late-second round in many mock drafts.