If Wisconsin men's basketball player Clayton Hanson was to write a novel about himself, he knows exactly what he would title it: The Exception. Even though the title came to the junior guard with ease, when asked why he chose that particular title, Hanson had trouble in giving his explanation.
Hanson's numbers speak for him and his vast improvement on the court this season demonstrates why he truly is "The Exception." After only playing a total of 115 minutes during his first two seasons, Hanson has had more than enough time with his 245 minutes (14.4 a game) this year to make himself known as one of Wisconsin's most dangerous weapons off the bench.
One reason Hanson appears on the court more frequently is the number of injuries that have plagued the Badgers this season. With sophomore forwards Alando Tucker and Jason Chappell out for the whole season and senior guard Freddie Owens questionable, Hanson now had a better opportunity to display his skills.
The Reedsburg, Wis. native has used his time wisely this season in developing every aspect of his game. Though his 4.4 points and 1.2 rebounds a game are not exactly breathtaking numbers, his improved defensive pressure and ball handling skills have stood out dramatically this season.
"I just think it's playing the third year here in the program and just being able to anticipate a little better," Hanson said. "It is about positioning and being in the right spot, I think that's the biggest part of it. It's also working with the strength and conditioning and just getting a little quicker."
Even if his game on the defensive end has picked up, opponents know that Hanson is still "The Exception" from beyond the arc. Last season he shot 43 percent from the three but it is Hanson's 64 percent accuracy in conference games this season that makes him the unlikely candidate at the top of the Big Ten in three-point field goal percentage.
But according to Hanson, there are other things on his mind.
"For me personally, it's not my main concern (to hit the three)," Hanson said. "My main concern is to come in and be solid on the defensive end and offensively just keep things moving. If I get open shots in the context of the offense, I hope to just knock them down."
Hanson has had an exceptional year in terms of personal accomplishments, shattering all of his personal bests during this campaign. During the Badgers' game against Michigan Jan. 21 the guard really got his chance to shine, breaking five of his personal records. Hanson ended the night with 17 points off of 6-for-8 shooting and connected on 5 of 6 3-point field goals.
Coming into the 2003-'04 season, team expectations were high. With back-to-back Big Ten championships and a loaded starting five, the Badgers certainly faced a challenge. Though the team has taken a few turns for the worse in terms of injuries, the Badgers have lived up to and exceeded many expectations, partly thanks to "The Exception" making a huge contribution off the bench.
"It's nice (to be having the season I'm having)," Hanson said. "To come here and work hard for two years, you know last year I tried to contribute but this year is paying off a little bit more. I'm having a blast and I'm just trying to keep building off of that."