Varsity - The Official Digital Magazine of Wisconsin Athletics

Varsity - April 3, 2014

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16 // VARSITY April 3, 2014 BY MIKE LUCAS // UWBADGERS.COM LUCAS AT LARGE A rizona freshmen Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis- Jefferson were so popular in Anaheim, it was a surprise that Nigel Burgundy and his cameraman weren't crowding around them for an interview. Everybody wanted to ask Gor- don about being the "forgotten man" among elite first-year players. Everybody wanted to ask Hollis- Jefferson about growing up in the same hometown as Bo Ryan. Hollis-Jefferson had some fun with the media. He kidded that he was the most famous person to come out of Chester, a small Penn- sylvania town just outside of Philly. He was kidding? Gordon took it more seriously. Asked if he felt overshadowed by Duke's Jabari Parker and Kansas' Andrew Wiggins, he said, "I don't really buy into all of that stuff. All I care about is winning." For the record, Gordon was the MVP of the 2013 McDonald's All- American game; not Parker or Wig- gins or Hollis-Jefferson ― and not any of the six Kentucky recruits that suited up as All-Stars. Gordon, a projected NBA lot- tery pick, replied indifferently to a question last week about Wisconsin freshmen Nigel Hayes ― whose alter ego during the tournament is derived fictional anchorman Ron Burgundy ― and Bronson Koenig. Gordon, a California native, said that he had not crossed paths with Hayes, an Ohioan, or Koenig, a Cheesehead, on the AAU circuit. Maybe it was understandable that he had not heard of either. But they both knew of him, and Hollis-Jefferson. And they certainly won't need an introduction to Julius Randle, Aaron and Andrew Harri- son, James Young, Dakari Johnson or Marcus Lee. All were McDonald's All-Amer- icans; all are freshmen playing for Kentucky. So it will be no different for Hayes and Koenig at the Final Four. They will take a back seat ― off the court, at least ― to others. Neither has a beef. It's not the way they're built. "We know how good some guys are; we've played against other McDonald's All-Amer- icans," Hayes said. "We try not to individualize people." Instead, he will focus on execut- ing the scouting report. So will Koe- nig. "We've played against a lot of other good athletes," he said. "We're going to play them the same." Hayes and Koenig have a healthy respect for the Wildcats, and the game of basketball. It has served them well in the NCAA tournament. Koenig is averaging 18 minutes and Hayes is averaging 17. "They want me to bring as much energy as I can off the bench," said Koenig, who made his only two shots against Arizona, "and to be a scoring threat when I need to be ― just make plays." Hayes was one of three UW play- ers in double-figures against Baylor. He had 10 points, six rebounds and two assists in the Sweet 16 victory. He also had a thunderous, rim-rat- tling tip dunk. "It was just another two points, same as a layup," he said before morphing into his Burgundy char- acter. "I think layups and dunks are worth two points, right? Right, OK." It was his way of saying that he's concentrating on staying even- keeled as possible. "I think it got the crowd a little excited," he observed. "Nonetheless, it's just another bas- ket, another two points." Aaron and Andrew Harrison are not just another set of twins. They're 6-foot-6, 215-pound guards. Joining them in Kentucky's all-frosh starting lineup is Randle, a 6-9, 250-pound low post player. "As you watch them on film, those aren't freshmen, not when you watch them play," said UW associate head coach Greg Gard. "Randle plays like he's a junior or a senior." Everything is relative. Gard noted the Badgers wouldn't be where they are without contributions from Hayes and Koenig. "They have the skill package above your average freshmen," he said. Moreover, they have embraced their roles within the team context. "They picked up on things real quick," Gard said, "and understood what it was going to take for them to get on the floor." "They're obviously talented," UW assistant coach Lamont Paris said. "But they've done an excellent job of not trying to do too much; they've shown what they can do, not what they can't do." Hayes and Koenig are still playing. Parker and Wiggins are not. "They can reflect back on that," said Paris, "and think, 'We've done some pretty good things on a pretty good team."' And they should feel pretty good about themselves. Badgers' freshmen not taking a back seat

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