Big Man Moves

After a nagging shoulder injury limited him in his freshman year, sophomore forward Jared Berggren has learned from his mistakes, his injuries and his teamamtes, all of which have made him a better player in early going for Wisconsin basketball.

MADISON - Jared Berggren acknowledges that he probably made a mistake.

Choosing to redshirt his first season in Madison, Berggren felt a weird pop in his right shoulder after a collision in practice. On the ensuing possessions, any time he extended out for a rebound or to block a shot, his shoulder would slip out of the socket and quickly pop back it.

"It was obviously really painful and it limited me," Berggren said. "I got tentative with it all the time. I stopped going hard after rebounds because I was expecting it to hurt all the time."

A MRI test showed a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Here is where the mistake comes in, as Berggren thought he could rehab it instead of going through the lengthy surgery. Berggren played in 19 games as a redshirt freshman, including 10 Big Ten Conference games, but struggled coping with the injury.

He attempted only 13 shots, grabbed 8 rebounds and only played in eight of UW's last 18 games, struggling with his shoulder and adjusting to the speed at which Big Ten conference post players move.

"It's always different in game situations compared to practice," Berggren said. "As much as you practice and see things, it's always a little different in games going against different bodies you don't see in practice every day. That was definitely one thing, and hopefully I'll be a little more prepared for it this year."

Berggren's focus for 2010 began immediately after losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Berggren had surgery to fix the labrum, was in a sling for six weeks and laid up for six months until he was pronounced at 100 percent.

The confidence has been repaired, as well, especially with the amount of work done on strengthening his lower body, getting his feet quicker and his legs stronger. Berggren also took the opportunity as soon as he shed his sling to begin conditioning with runs, practicing ball handling and finishing around the basket with his left hand.

"I never wanted to use it as an excuse and I never tried to," Berggren said. "It wasn't like it hurt every time. I can shoot and do certain things, but it really hurt if it got a little hit on it. It never held me out of practice, but it was something I had to deal with, made me tentative and slowed me down."

Berggren has been heating up through Wisconsin's first three games. After playing a career-high 14 minutes and scoring a career-high seven points in the opener, Berggren gave Wisconsin (2-1) a lift off the bench at Nevada-Las Vegas Saturday, scoring five points, grabbing four rebounds, two assists, one block and was impressively active in the post in 13 minutes of action.

"Take a look at some of these teams that we've played, the smaller, quicker shooters, the pick-and-pop guys, guys like that," UW Coach Bo Ryan said. "Not a defensive strength of his, but how about the post move? He made a big man post move.

"I've been working with some guys in our program for years, and they just have a very difficult time doing it in a game. Berggren has post moves, legitimate, big-man post moves that he's worked at like our other guys have worked at, only he's gotten them in the game. So I'm hoping that becomes contagious with some of the other guys. He's going to be a player."

When it comes to developing a young post player, there's nothing better than a three-game early season tournament that requires every player to be ready to contribute. At last season's EA Sports Maui Invitational, true freshman Mike Bruesewitz played 22 minutes in the opener against Arizona and chipped in with 10 minutes in round two and 11 minutes in round three.

When Wisconsin faces Manhattan (2-1) in the opening round of the Old Spice Classic from Orlando Thursday, it will be the first of three games in four days for the Badgers, and Berggren knows what his expectations are.

"You've got to be ready," Berggren said. "You can't come out and relax on any play. You've got to be ready, especially if you are stiff and cold coming off the bench. You've got to get yourself loose in a hurry and stay focused the first play you were in there."

The development of Berggren adds another post weapon to the fray for the Badgers, who already have proven commodities Bruesewitz, Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil. With the Badgers having already dominated the paint this season, owning a 119-65 scoring advantage, Wisconsin has plenty of players to rotate in, making the group that much more talented with Berggren's development.

"That's definitely the strength of the team because we have so many guys that can play in the post," Berggren said. "All of them are versatile that can step out and shoot or put the ball on the floor a little bit. It's something we look to take advantage of because we feel we can out rebound any team we go against.

"We can play hard every play and not worry about getting tired because we always have guys that can come in. That also means we have to fight because if you take a play off, you are replaceable. It's going to make us all better."

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