Nicknames are a common thing among teammates and the Wisconsin men's basketball team is full of many unique names. Some can be catchy (‘I shot the Sharif'), some can be humorous (Brian ‘Big Bird' Butch) and some can be complimentary. Fortunately for sophomore forward/center Andreas Helmigk he lucked out with his nickname as his UW teammates commonly refer to him as ‘Smooth.'
"(Sophomore forward) Ray (Nixon) gave me the nickname," Helmigk said. "I don't know why (they gave it to me) I think it was because…at one of these events we had to go to I had one of my suits on and with sunglasses and he was like ‘Damn, smooth!'"
Though the moniker was given to him away from the game, once Helmigk steps onto the court he does not stray away from the name. His fluid play and ability to glide through the post proves that he is just as smooth on the court and has helped him land a starting role this season.
"It feels great (to be starting)," Helmigk said. "It was always a dream of mine and now it suddenly came. I'm just enjoying it while I'm in it."
His team has enjoyed his presence in the starting lineup as well. With sophomore forward Alando Tucker out indefinitely with an injured right foot, Helmigk is one of the players who have received the call to fill in the gaps. He has done this quite nicely and the team has gone 6-2 during his eight starts.
"He brings something different to the team," fellow forward, junior Mike Wilkinson said. "He can shoot the ball, he can put the ball on the floor, he's real physical and he gets to the glass. He just has a presence out there, especially on the defensive end too. He does a good job of getting around on the post and being physical with their best post player."
Besides an injured Tucker, there are many other factors that contributed to Helmigk being the one to step in.
"I think it was a combination of things," assistant coach Greg Gard said regarding the starting spot. "He's kept working, he's been persistent, he's kept getting better and he's also gotten more experience. And its things, you know whether its foul trouble or injuries, that have allowed him to get some more experience and he's taken that and run with it. He's done a great job of continually getting better and has made the most of his opportunities."
Even if the Klagenfurt, Austria native is the oldest sophomore, let alone player, on the team at 24, he is still surpassing many of his career bests this season. After only contributing a mere 6.7 minutes last year, he is now averaging 11.6 minutes, saw himself in play a career best 22 minutes against Detroit and Indiana and already tallied a career-high 12 points against Detroit.
Helmigk has also proven to be a strong compliment to Wilkinson, with their inside-outside offensive games and strong defense in the post.
"(Having Helmigk in the lineup) gives you somebody who bangs around down there and he's pretty efficient with the ball and rebounds pretty well," Gard said. "I think they compliment each other pretty well because they each help each other. Mike can play outside a little bit more than Andreas but Andreas can play pretty well when he has to step out. I think they've helped each other out quite a bit but I think the biggest thing is just having another physical strong body up front."
With the Badgers getting deeper into their Big Ten schedule, Helmigk will provide another useful weapon to the team. Whether he is taking up space down in the post or giving Wilkinson the opportunity to go outside, one thing is for sure; Helmigk will make sure that he lives up to his nickname as all of this will be done as ‘Smooth' as possible.