MADISON – Brevin Pritzl could pick a number of things to highlight as his most frustrating point over the last year.
Forced to sit on the bench while recovering from a twice broken foot, Pritzl couldn’t tap into his shooting ability on nights where his Wisconsin teammates struggled to find the bottom of the net. He was also powerless to help crash the glass, an underrated part of his game after averaging six rebounds as a senior in high school.
But the frustration reached its highest levels when Pritzl couldn’t work on his game or improve his defense, something he highlighted as a must early in his career in order to see the court.
“I just couldn’t work on them because I wasn’t playing,” Pritzl said. “Now it’s a matter of talking to the coaches, trying to figure out the little nuances and figure out how to maybe do this better than I did before.”
A four-star prospect coming out of De Pere High School, where he was the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,720 points, Pritzl broke his foot in August prior to the start of fall conditioning and didn’t get cleared until a few weeks into the nonconference season. He admittedly rushed back so he could play, making his debut in the second game of the season.
Two weeks later be broke his foot again and was shut down for the season, limited to four minutes, no shots and one turnover in his lone game.
Receiving a medical redshirt because of his plight, Pritzl’s process has understandably been much more dragged out to hopefully prevent any more setbacks.
“I call it a rehab assignment almost because we started out really light in the summer time, playing maybe two games of an open gym than four games of an open gym,” Pritzl said. “(At the start of camp) I worked back up to full participation, just trying to get as many reps as I can to try to get back.”
As expected the development has been slow. Entering Friday’s nonconference finale against Florida A&M (2-9), Pritzl has played in seven games (tied for the fewest on the team) for a total of 20 minutes. He played a career-high six minutes against Prairie View A&M, scoring a career-high six points after making both of his 3-pointers.
Acknowledging there would be rust this season, Pritzl believes he’s the same player as a 20 year old as he was as an 18-year-old recruit because of his inability to do much – if any – basketball-related activities last year.
“I don’t think (the rust is) ever going to wear off until next year,” Pritzl said. “There’s no way to make up for losing a year of playing. That’s just a huge gap. You come in as a freshman (and) already you’re not at the same level as the guys who have been here. You lose a year of full participation almost. I had to learn to rerun, learn how to recut and do all those kind of things.”
“It’ll take a while,” Pritzl said, “but hopefully the more and more I practice, the more I feel more comfortable and the rustiness wears off.”
More than Meets the Iverson
Whether it’s driving the lane, taking a feed in the low block or getting set up with an alley-oop pass from one of his teammates, Khalil Iverson has developed the reputation for his thunderous dunks. So it’s not surprising to see the 6-5 guard lead the team with 15 slams through 12 games.
But while his explosiveness leads the highlight packages, the sophomore takes more pride in being a slasher into the paint and creating opportunities. One of head coach Greg Gard’s top two options off the bench (freshman D'Mitrik Trice being the other), Iverson is shooting 67.6 percent from the field, has 45 rebounds, 11 blocks and seven steals.
All those numbers lead the bench players (he’s also first on the team in blocks and second in shooting percentage) and represent a significant increase from where he was a year ago.
“Whenever you are doing something, work hard at it,” Iverson said, who is averaging 5.3 points per game. “As a freshman, I knew if I worked hard good things would happen. I got a little bit of playing time, and after getting a little bit of playing time, I wanted to continue to work hard to show the coaches I’m someone they could put in there, be tough and go guard the other team’s best guard.”
Consistency was the big thing for Iverson, especially when his minutes drastically fluctuated last season. After playing five minutes in a win against Indiana, Iverson was on the floor for 30 minutes during the next game, an eight-point victory at Illinois. In the final 12 games of the season Iverson played as many as 20 minutes and as little as four.
Now having played at least 14 minutes nine times thus far, including at least 20 the last three games, Iverson credits the unknown factor of his sporadic minutes as helping him with his development.
“It’s a matter of always being ready for when your number is called on,” he said.
Free Throws: Wisconsin stayed at No.14 in the Associated Press poll following last week’s victory over Green Bay. UW has been in the top 15 in four out of seven polls … Wisconsin is one of six Big Ten teams with 10 wins. Of the 10, however, Maryland, Minnesota and Rutgers have yet to play a ranked team … Wisconsin opens Big Ten play Dec.27 at home against Rutgers.