Varsity - The Official Digital Magazine of Wisconsin Athletics

Varsity - April 17, 2014

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14 // VARSITY April 17, 2014 BY MIKE LUCAS // UWBADGERS.COM LUCAS AT LARGE N ow that the national pun- dits have a basketball crush on Wisconsin ― CBS's Seth Davis and ESPN's Jay Bilas each have the Badgers ranked No. 2 in their early-bird preseason projec- tions ― how will the players handle such expectations? They'll start by returning to the practice floor next week. "As great as the run was, you still remember the ending when you're a player and these guys are hungry," said UW associate head coach Greg Gard. "They understand that they're not instantaneously back in the Fi- nal Four. It's a long journey that has a lot of bumps in the road. "Our first goal is always the same, 'Can we win the Big Ten?' We'll start with that preparation and if you put yourself in the pic- ture or in good standing with that (goal), then it gives you a shot to make another run when it comes to the NCAA tournament." The workouts over the next two weeks will be limited and focused on specific areas. "There will be a lot of shooting development," Gard said. "It won't be a lot of contact; it will be more about muscle memory and reflex and shooting mechanics because we get them again in the summer." The summer practices will consist of no more than two hours of court time per week ― coincid- ing with the eight-week summer school session. In both cases, now and then, April and June, the mis- sion statement will be relatively the same as far as what the coaches want to get out of the players. "It's always going to be about what we need to do in order to take steps forward," Gard said, "and what guys individually need to work on to get better. We're giving each player specific things and drills in addition to some team things that will pinpoint improve- ment in certain areas with certain guys." What's next for freshman Nigel Hayes? "A lot of skill development," Gard said. "Ball-handling, shooting, finishing around the rim; things that he showed flashes of. His next step is becoming more comfortable on the perimeter. He has the poten- tial to knock down 3s because he did in high school." It just wasn't needed last season. Gard is still more intent on Hayes "becoming better at finishing in traffic and more consistent with his ability to draw contact and get to the free throw line. As your skill set develops, you become more confident and that usually increases consistency." Another freshman, Bronson Koenig, presents another offseason expectation. "He will do a lot of shooting," said Gard. "He under- stands now from a strength stand- point what it's like. With a year under his belt, he has tasted it; now it's not new anymore, so he can turn it loose and go." Shooting will take precedence in the spring. "It's not a lot of heavy- pounding on the body, it's more fine-tuning," Gard said. "Now is the time when you can refine, adjust and modify shots. You can tweak things or develop more consistency in the release in trying to get all the shots to be the same." Traevon Jackson and Frank Kaminsky will likely tweak some things after receiving their apprais- als from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee; a service of- fered to all players who are curious about their draft status and want an opinion on the strengths and weak- nesses in their game. "They'll give you an honest opin- ion on where you're at," said Gard, adding that Jackson and Kaminsky were the only ones on the team to file the paperwork. "It's great for all players who have aspirations of playing at that level. It gives you some honest feedback and motiva- tion for down the road. "It also gives you a different voice. Sometimes your parents can tell you do to this and do that. And the next door neighbor can tell you the same things and you'll listen to your neighbor and not your par- ents. The same message ― in a dif- ferent voice ― sometimes resonates better." Wisconsin is not Kentucky, but it's not a lonely outpost, either. "We're not a program hidden under a rock somewhere," Gard said. "We'll have 20 to 30 NBA scouts at practice before we ever play a game next season. They will roll through in the fall and they will have a library on everybody." The book just reads a little bit differently with a Final Four chap- ter. After Final Four run, Badgers head back to gym

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