With practice commencing last Saturday, the Wisconsin men's basketball team is already working its way toward contention in the Big Ten and a tournament drive in March. However, this year's team will have a much different makeup than the Badger teams that either won the Big Ten regular season or tournament championship the past three years.
Missing will be the man who helped orchestrate the most successful three-year span in the history of Wisconsin basketball. Devin Harris' early departure to the NBA left a major hole in the Badgers' starting lineup and for many Wisconsin fans, the premiere question entering this season is who will fill Devin's shoes.
As freshman guard Michael Flowers points out, it will take a combined effort to replace the No. 5 pick of the NBA Draft.
"We have to regroup and as a team we have to fill [Devin's] shoes," Flowers said. "And not so much that one person has to but as a team we have to, and I think we will do a good job filling Devin's shoes because the team chemistry is here already."
Although Flowers and sophomore guard Kammron Taylor are two underclassman that could provide a spark at the point for the Badgers, the starting spot will most likely go to junior guard Boo Wade.
Wade started 28 of the 30 games that he played in last season and racked up nearly seven points per game to go with 2.6 assists per game. Although Harris was well received as one of the best point guards in the nation, Wade boasts a better turnover-to-assist ratio and also averaged fewer turnovers per minute than Harris in their respective college careers.
"Coach is looking forward to me taking over the ‘1' man spot and running the show so I am just trying to run the show as well as I can," Wade said, with a confident swagger about him.
"Boo has played the position his freshman year and he played some last year," sophomore forward Alando Tucker said. "Devin left an impression on a lot of guys that you can score as a point guard and that you can make plays and they all like that."
Kammron Taylor, the only other returning guard from last year's team that might see some playing time at the point, is eager to prove he can contribute. The sophomore played sparingly in 18 games last year.
"[Harris' departure] makes me a lot hungrier, [knowing I can get some playing time]," Taylor said. "The day Devin decided to leave I knew that it was time to step up my game and that's what I am going to try to do this year."
Senior Sharif Chambliss, a natural shooting guard, could also slide over to the point after spending last season on the scout team while sitting out a transfer year.
Rounding out the list at point is Flowers, from Madison La Follette High School. The 6-foot-2 freshman will have to deal with the hardships that come with adjusting to Big Ten basketball, but could make more of an impact in the second half of the season. For now, Wade and Taylor are filling in for Devin as a leader, teaching the rookie about Big Ten basketball and head coach Bo Ryan's coaching style.
"We are just trying to take care of business right now." Wade said. "We are trying to get Michael [Flowers] used to the swing [offense] and get the younger players into the offense and get them used to our offense overall."
"I am learning a lot from [the older guys]," Flowers said "I am learning a lot from the coaches too. It's a learning process so the quicker I learn, the better it is for me and the team."
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