Badgers wrap up runs at ‘The Hill'

Wisconsin begins official practices Saturday

The yearly Bo Ryan tradition within preseason conditioning culminated Monday as the Wisconsin men's basketball team finished a jaw-dropping 20 runs on the hill at Elver Park in time for the official start of practice this Saturday.

With all 15 members of the team in attendance for the final run, head coach Bo Ryan was more than pleased with the development and effort of his players each of the past four weeks and their dedication to getting ready for the 2004-05 season.

"Everybody is ready," Ryan said. "This is just what we were expecting. Everybody was there and everyone ran. They're anxious, but this is all good. This is the appetizer and after about three weeks of practice, they're ready to play … or at least they'll think they're ready to play."

Beginning Thursday, Sept. 9, the team began running the main hill at Elver Park on the far west side of Madison—a Ryan coaching staple that tips-off every new campaign in order to physically and mentally prepare the team for the grueling season ahead. Starting with eight trips up and down the hill, the team increases by two each week until they hit 20 the final week before practice begins.

Considering the effort the hill demands, Ryan recognizes the toll the body takes throughout the weeks but commends all his players for making it through all 20 and pushing themselves to the limit.

"Just watching them hang out together and push another, there is a lot of team building going on and they don't even know it or at least they know it but don't talk about it that much," Ryan said.

For some on the team— including seniors Mike Wilkinson, Clayton Hanson and Sharif Chambliss—Monday potentially marks the last day of hill runs they will ever have to do. But for these three, and a few others, the experience they have gained running the hill in the years past has helped them take on a leadership role and a captains-like mentality that coaches crave and love to see this early in the season.

"I think that it's pretty obvious with a guy like [Alando] Tucker for his age that he's a leader," Ryan said. "He set s a great example, he encourages the other guys and they respond to him. Then Mike and Sharif, for his position, it's tough for a guy like him transferring in, but he's a guy that has been a leader too. Clayton is a quiet leader himself that leads and does it by example as well."

Despite losing three seniors to graduation in addition to last season's Big Ten Player of the Year, Devin Harris, to the NBA, the Badgers return a wealth of talent, including four redshirts from a season ago, and experience this year behind five seniors and two juniors. More importantly, as a team the Badgers have a combined 187 starts and have played in a total of 495 games, further reiterating Ryan's belief that his team is ready to tackle the season ahead.

According to Ryan, the team will, as normal, still lift weights and do their individual agility tests this Thursday before starting the season "for real", as Ryan puts it, on Saturday. But even before that, Ryan has one more thing planned for his team.

"Friday is also the day the guys all get haircuts, take care of business, just like the marines," Ryan said.

Considering Ryan's discontent a season ago at the length of Zach Morley's hair at times (as evident by ESPN's The Season), this trip to the barber is something the coach is probably not joking about. On whether facial hair was acceptable, Ryan responded in a typical Ryanesque manner.

"I don't worry too much about it if it's clean, groomed," he said. "Guys have different interpretations of what they think they look like when they have [facial hair]. For some it improves their appearance and for others it probably distracts. [To Michael Flowers] Hey Mike, what do you have, a little chin hair? That's nice."

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