MADISON – Having the urge to show off a little, junior guard Bronson Koenig posted a photo to Instagram in September that showed his spoils.
The picture showed his right hand wearing two Final Four rings and the 2015 Big Ten championship ring. On his right wrist were a pair of watches with the Final Four logo from each of the last two seasons, a gift given to each of the players. It was a photo that has generated over 4,700 “likes” and shows how special the last two years have been.
A photo posted by Bronson Koenig (@bkoenig_24) on Sep 18, 2015 at 6:09pm PDT
Redshirt sophomore guard Jordan Hill has all the same jewelry and accessories as his classmate but you won’t catch him flashing the diamonds in public. In reality, Hill has all of gifts locked away in a safe for a simple reason – he doesn’t feel like he’s earned them.
“I’ll display it when I have a hand in it,” said Hill. “I’m proud of it, and indirectly I got those guys ready being a part of the scout team, but it’s just material to me. I would rather be on the court and be one of the reasons why we got there.”
For the last two seasons, most people have known “Jordan Hill” simply as a name on Wisconsin’s basketball roster. He wasn’t a highly touted recruit – far from it actually – and played in only 11 games for 25 minutes two seasons ago. Last season he spent game days at the end of the bench, choosing to redshirt to improve his game and not waste a year of eligibility fighting for leftovers in UW’s crowded backcourt.
“It’s been an extremely long two years,” said Hill. “It’s had its purpose. I think as I grew up and matured, that’s the biggest thing I realized was there was a reason for this. It doesn’t mean I am not a good player. It just means that right now is not the time. My time will come and here it is.”
The long wait for Hill to return to the court ends tonight in Wisconsin’s lone exhibition game against UW-River Falls. Hill has spent the majority of fall working behind Koenig and doing some work at the two spot. With Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson gone, Hill is the fifth most experienced guard on the roster; a sign of how young this 2015-16 roster is.
“He’s been committed to getting better at basketball,” said assistant coach Lamont Paris of Hill. “He’s a better basketball player right now than last year. The lessons he’s learn of being mature, taking care of the ball and what we like to do here (with) shot selection, he’s improved at that. The biggest lesson learn is how to prepare to get better at basketball and hopefully that will translate on the court.”
Over the last year, Hill has improved every aspect of his game while still possessing the tireless work ethic and the relentless defense that originally got him notice by head coach Bo Ryan in an AAU basketball tournament in Chicago.
“I’ve put in the work, and I’m still putting in the work,” said Hill. “It’s an everyday process. I’m really excited about being involved this year and really help the team.”
Despite being ranked No.17 in the preseason Associated Press poll, Wisconsin is flying largely under the radar entering the season, even going so far as to be labeled “overrated” by some national outlets for its top 20 ranking. The national finalists from a season ago are picked to finish in the middle of the Big Ten conference standings.
That’s news to Hill and his teammates, who once again have high goals for themselves when the season officially starts Nov.13.
“Bo Ryan’s teams always get better as the season goes on,” said Hill. “Our team has been getting better by leaps and bounds every day. It’s very different coming into this year compared to last year when we had the player of the year, Sam Dekker and lock down defenders. You knew where everyone was going to be. Now you really only know two with Bronson and Nigel (Hayes) and what they’re going to bring for sure.
“I think it’s awesome that guys like myself and so many other guys have a chance to step up and really show something. I know a lot of people don’t know who we are but we can play, too.”