Notes: Building the Front Court

Five days away from its first competition of the season, a closed-door scrimmage against Depaul in Chicago, Wisconsin basketball holds its media day Monday, and head coach Bo Ryan reveals that there are no room for soft players on his team that needs to replace 46.4 percent of its scoring.

MADISON - If you have the privilege of playing Bo Ryan in tennis, expect to get dinked to death ... and lose. It's apparent that his "boring" style carries over from the basketball court.

"We're going to take a good shot," said Ryan during the team's media day. "Whenever I played tennis against guys, they thought I was boring because I would just return everything, and they'd get mad. ‘Can't you smash the ball?' I always felt if you get the ball back over the net … where they run up to the net and I put a little (shot) over their head, frustrates them.

"Why don't you try to hit it real hard? I just try to win."

The style of Wisconsin basketball never changes – stressing fundamentals, touching the post, etc. - and neither does the success (10 NCAA tournament appearances in 10 years. Only the players that Ryan has to work with are different and the big difference this season is in the front court.

Wisconsin returns 53.6 percent of its scoring, 54.7 of its rebounding and 68.8 assists from a season ago, numbers that directly reflect what senior point guard Jordan Taylor is bringing back to the lineup. After losing six seniors, including four post players, from last year's 25-9 Sweet 16 team, the questions around this year's edition center right underneath the basket.

A year ago, Ryan needed to find suitable replacements for Jason Bohannon and Trevon Hughes, but did so by not telling players that they had to do because those guys did that. He pointed to Josh Gasser, who filled in next to Taylor and averaged 5.9 points per game and turned in the school's first triple-double at Northwestern.

"Take a look at all the freshman in the country that were talked about and then take a look at the production of Josh Gasser," Ryan said. "He would have to be one of the biggest surprises in the country to be a starter on a team that won 25 games, made it to the Sweet 16 as a freshman. That's what filled in to those spots for J-Bo and (Hughes)."

On the practice court, Ryan mentioned the names of fourth-year junior Jared Berggren and redshirt sophomore Evan Anderson as guys that could make contributions in the post. Berggren played in 29 games last season – shooting 49.1 percent from the floor – while Anderson redshirted to get his body healthy and build strength on his wiry frame.

"I would think somebody would just have to do whatever to get him off the court," Ryan said of Berggren. "His shoulder is where it should be. He's worked hard. (Trainer Scott Hettenbach) said he is one of the harder working guys … It's his time.

"Evan (is) still progressing. It's amazing how big he is and is even better shape and trying to hone his offensive skills. That's where he is a little bit behind but guys his size, that's usually where they need the most development."

As for Taylor, Ryan isn't hoping Taylor thinks he has to score 40-plus points a game, but knows his All-American player wants to be more consistent, a better leader and more inclusive with his teammates after averaging 18.1 points and a 3.83 assist-to-turnover ratio last year.

"He'll be an even better leader this year," Ryan said of Taylor. "He's a tough, competitive guard … and a guy that should have another good year."

Solid Recruiting

Ryan doesn't often divulge much when it comes to recruiting, but there's no question the head coach is on a hot streak. Grabbing the top player in the state in 2012 (Sam Dekker) and 2013 (Bronson Koenig), Ryan was blunt that he looks for a student-athlete that, in order, is a 4.0 student, took college classes in high school to get a head start, has speed, jumping and shooting ability, basically someone that is a good fit for the University of Wisconsin.

"There are certain people we don't go after for certain reasons or feel they don't want to play here for imagined or real reasons," Ryan said. "What you look for our individuals that mesh, blend (and) become part of something that's bigger than themselves and be able to handle that. Guys that enjoy a challenge … What you are looking for is the All-American guy. In order to have a fair chance of making it here, you would have to have a lot going for them."

Wilson Injured Again

After suffering a hamstring injury, and multiple other problems, last season that limited his contributions, Ryan said Monday that Wilson has missed practice time again this season, although he wouldn't elaborate what the problem was this year.

Averaging only 1.6 points in 23 games last year, Wilson, the only other senior along with Taylor, is still waiting for his breakout season.

"You can show you are hungry if you are on the court," Wilson said. "If you aren't on the court you can't. He's missed practices … We're just hoping he can be there every day. It's hard when you are on, you're off, you're on, you're off. He's trying to fight through that right now."

Editor's Note: Wilson practiced Monday and looked very good, showing no signs of any past or present injuries.


Bo Ryan on freshman Jarrod Uthoff

"He'll play at the University of Wisconsin. He'll play early. He's a player. Better than expected, but don't tell him I said that. I think the other guys have a chance to play, but he's right now kind of picking up things like Josh (Gasser) did last year. Coaches like good listeners, fast learners, and I have never seen a more conscientious guy. He's extremely conscientious."

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