Varsity is the free Official Online Magazine of Wisconsin Athletics, covering Badgers football, basketball, hockey and more each week.
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I LUCAS AT LARGE BY MIKE LUCAS // UWBADGERS.COM Jackson has new outlook for new season 14 t would be unfair to call them Wisconsin's odd couple since there's nothing odd about what they do. Ethan Hemer is a starting defensive tackle, Traevon Jackson is a starting point guard. But they're also roommates and "it's pretty abnormal'' Hemer suggested of the football and basketball mix; not that it isn't working out ideally for both student-athletes, because it definitely is. "It's just a funny story,'' Hemer said. Where to start? Hemer had been living with football players and was planning on rooming with a track athlete this semester. But it fell through and that left him scrambling at the last minute. Jackson was also a free agent on the housing list and got word of Hemer's situation. "I got a text from Trae, 'What's up? Looking for a roommate?''' related Hemer. "I was like, 'Absolutely.' I knew him through Athletes in Action and some other stuff.'' It has turned out to be a good match even though they come from such different worlds: Hemer is from Medford, the home of Tombstone Pizza; Jackson is from Westerville, Ohio; a Columbus suburb. "I can just tell from being around him that he's a genuine individual,'' said Hemer, who played hockey, not basketball, in high school. "He cares about his craft, but he's looking at the bigger picture.'' That would be an apt description today of Jackson, whose "care factor'' has never been stronger. Over the summer, he got involved with a bible study group and opened his // VARSITY October 17, 2013 heart to new influences. "I'm more at peace,'' he said. On the court, he's striving to be more consistent. "Last year, I had a lot of ups and downs,'' said Jackson, who started the final 29 games. "This year is going to be steady and you're going to know what you're going to get from me.'' After seeing a total of just 13 minutes of playing time in the Big Ten as a freshman, Jackson had to take over as the UW point guard last season when Josh Gasser was sidelined with a knee injury. "I know what I need to do now personally,'' said Jackson, who led the Badgers with 99 assists and 35 steals, "and I know what we need to do as a team. I know what we're capable of doing.'' Jackson was most assuredly capable of taking and making a clutch shot. He did it three times. He forced overtime vs. Iowa with a game-tying 3-point basket with 29 seconds left; he beat Minnesota with a 15-foot jumper with 2.1 seconds remaining and Penn State with a triple at the buzzer. "You can't really prepare for those last-second shots,'' he said. "You have to be prepared to make every shot. Those shots you're taking earlier during the game are just as important.'' The Badgers got an early start on the season with an exhibition tour of Canada which Jackson said accelerated the learning curve of the freshmen and "showed me the things I needed to work on.'' Despite their inexperience, the first-year players made a good first impression. "They're talented, they're hungry, they're gritty, they don't back down,'' Jackson said. "It's exciting for the future. You have guys who can play and really do some things. "Canada helped out a lot. But we have to bring them along slowly. You can't force things on people who have never been in that type of situation. We have to be good teammates for them.'' Whereas the front line will look noticeably different with the graduation losses of three starters, the backcourt should reflect an intense competition for minutes. "It makes you bring your 'A' game every day,'' Jackson said of the guards. "We all complement each other and the way we play and we can cause some matchup problems.'' Although Gasser is still rounding into basketball shape, Jackson noted, "He's a warrior. He never lets anything stop him. He just keeps pushing. I'm excited for him.'' He was also excited for his good friend Trey Burke ― the former Michigan guard ― until he broke a finger on his shooting hand during a preseason game with the Utah Jazz. He'll be out six weeks. Jackson didn't spend as much time with Burke in Columbus this summer as he has in the past. Burke was getting ready for the NBA draft and Jackson was in the process of turning over a new leaf. He sounded more content than ever; a sign of maturity and personal growth. "This year is different,'' he said. "I'm prepared now, I'm ready for it.''