MADISON - Junior Sam Dekker has pronounced himself healthy and ready to play in No.3 Wisconsin’s season opener against Northern Kentucky Friday night, allowing the Badgers basketball world to finally release their collective breath.
“I’m good to go,” Dekker said. “I’ll be out there.”
Wednesday marked the first day Dekker has been available since injuring his left ankle on a drive the basket during practice Oct.24.
Dekker didn’t play during the annual Red/White Scrimmage Oct.26, the Badgers’ closed scrimmage against DePaul Nov.1 or the home exhibition game against Division II UW-Parkside Nov.5. He returned to practice Nov.3.
“That first week (after the injury) was kind of slow, but we bounced back quick,” said Dekker. “Our training staff does a great job of getting us back into game shape and game ready.”
The 6-9 Dekker is one of four returning starters for Wisconsin, averaging 12.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game to help the Badgers reach the Final Four for the first time since 2000. In the weeks leading up to the season, Dekker was named a preseason All-Big Ten pick and a preseason All-American by USA Today.
“I think I have grown and matured,” said Dekker. “I still have a lot of work to do, but I’ll never stop working.”
It’s going to be a busy first week for Wisconsin, which will host UT-Chattanooga Sunday afternoon (giving UW approximately 37 hours between games), host Green Bay (ranked the No.7 best mid-major team by College Basketball Talk) Wednesday and then Boise State next Saturday. The Broncos are projected to finish second in the Mountain West.
Wisconsin also travels to the Bahamas for the loaded Battle 4 Atlantic tournament and host No.4 Duke in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge Dec.3.
“Obviously I don’t want to miss that time,” said Dekker. “There was two-and-a-half weeks there where I could have fine-tuned some stuff and get a little better, but I’m happy where I’m at right now. I don’t think I’m too rusty. The jumping and the above-the-rim aspect should come back real soon, so I’m not too far behind.
“I’m excited. I’m ready to go. Once game time comes around all that stuff will be gone, and I’ll just be myself out there and back to full strength.”