MADISON - After suffering its first loss of the Big Ten conference season with two of their starters sidelined by game’s end, the University of Wisconsin can take solace in the fact that All-American Frank Kaminsky doesn’t plan on missing any more time in his senior season.
Surrounding by a throng of reporters before practice Tuesday (‘my dream come true,’ he joked), Kaminsky returned to practice and pronounced himself ready to go for No.7 Wisconsin (15-2, 3-1 Big Ten) when it hosts Nebraska (10-6, 2-2) Thursday night.
It’s a stark turnaround for what he went through six days ago.
Already feeling under the weather during the team’s pre-game shoot around, Kaminsky took an inadvertent elbow to the head in the first half of Wisconsin’s 62-55 victory over Purdue that he believes started the chain of events.
“I started noticing it a little bit at halftime,” said Kaminsky, as Purdue center Isaac Haas was assessed a flagerant-1 foul for the hit on Kaminsky. “My head started pounding. Once I sat down in the locker room, it felt like I had a pretty bad headache. I was getting a little bit dizzy but not bad. I’ve played basketball with a headache before, so it didn’t seem all that different for me.”
Kaminsky finished with a game-high 21 points – 19 coming after the hit - and four rebounds against the Boilermakers, but said he felt “way more tired than normal” following the game. He skipped the postgame media interviews and spent Thursday’s off day not feeling any better.
Not practicing Friday or Saturday, a combination of head athletic trainer Henry Perez-Guerra and the team medical staff made the decision Saturday night to have Kaminsky sit. It was a decision that was so irritating to Kaminsky that he called the team physician from the arena while the team went through its walkthrough to plead his case to play before finally relenting.
“I fought with the medical staff a little bit because I really wanted to play,” said Kaminsky. “I don’t want to be sitting out of anything, but they had my best interests in mind. They thought I needed a little bit more time.”
Kaminsky leads the Badgers with 16.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, a presence that was sorely missed in the 67-62 loss to Rutgers. Without Kaminsky’s body patrolling the paint, Rutgers shot 66.7 percent in the second half to erase a 12-point halftime lead.
“It was definitely hard to sit by and watch,” said Kaminsky. “I was trying to do whatever I could to motivate people … but there’s not much I can really do about going out on the court and doing anything when I am on the bench. It was definitely frustrating, but it’s a learning experience and I can grow from it.”
Wisconsin and Kaminsky will have to move forward for the foreseeable future without senior guard Traevon Jackson. Breaking his foot in the second half, Jackson will undergo surgery Thursday and is expected to be out anywhere from 4-to-6 weeks. Sophomore guard Bronson Koenig – who scored 12 points after starting in place of Kaminsky Sunday – is expected to be the main fill in.
“The leadership of everyone has to step up,” said Kaminsky. “He’s probably the biggest motivator we have on the team.”
That leadership and motivation role now shifts to Kaminsky, an area where he knows he’ll be counted on to have an even bigger role as the Badgers grind through conference play.
“It’s my senior year and it’s my last chance to win a Big Ten championship, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get that done,” Kaminsky said. “Whether it’s motivating people, being a more vocal leader on the court and off the court, I’m going to do whatever it takes.”