Sophs develop skills together

Tucker, Taylor bolster their games through one-on-one workouts

When Devin Harris decided to forego his final year of college basketball, Alando Tucker needed a new summer playing partner.

Tucker, a sophomore forward, had planned on working one-on-one with the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year. The idea was that Tucker could help make Harris stronger while Harris assisted Tucker with his quickness.

But when Wisconsin's summer workouts began June 14, Harris was two weeks from becoming a Dallas Maverick. So Tucker turned to one of Harris' successors, sophomore point guard Kammron Taylor.

"I remember… a long time ago watching Grant Hill talk and he said how he got better at dribbling was taking a quicker guy and actually working with him," Tucker said. "I was pretty much going to do this with Devin so I told Kamm over the summer, ‘Let's work out. I can make you stronger and you can make me quicker.'"

Coming off multiple foot injuries that forced him to take a medical redshirt last season, Tucker was limited in what he could do over the summer. But nearly every day, after weight lifting under the direction of strength and conditioning coach Scott Hettenbach, Tucker and Taylor took to the hard court, supplementing the team's 5-on-5 summer scrimmages with a series of one-on-one dribbling and shooting drills.

The work was beneficial to each player. Tucker, 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, is making the subtle transition from power forward to small forward. Already an exceptionally explosive player, Tucker worked diligently to improve his quickness and ball handling for his new assignment. To that end, there was no better playing partner than Taylor, who broke the Badgers' all-time agility record in the offseason, running from halfcourt to one foul line, back to the other foul line and then back to halfcourt in 6.32 seconds, according to The Capital Times.

"I think he seems more explosive this year then he did last year. He is probably the second quickest guy on the team behind me," Taylor said with a laugh.

Taylor, 6-2, 170, rarely rose from the bench as a true freshman last year but will be counted on with Harris gone and junior point guard Boo Wade taking a leave of absence.

"I was trying to help him because he's a bit inexperienced," said Tucker, who bench presses 350 pounds and holds the school record with a 38-inch vertical jump. "I was going to pretty much take him and show him how the Big Ten is. It's strong. They are going to get in and bump you."

Taylor heard the message loud and clear. While his weight has not changed, he looks physically stronger than a year ago and, he said, his bench press has gone up from 170 when he arrived on campus to 225.

"When I first got here last year I was real skinny," Taylor said. "I'm still skinny now but I feel stronger and I can take the contact in the lane and I can still finish."

Practices have been closed to the media since they began Oct. 16, but Taylor said he is noticing a vast improvement when the Badgers go to "finishing school."

"We finish but our teammates get to foul us," he said. "This year has been a lot different from last year. Last year I was just throwing the ball over the rim or I couldn't finish but this year I'm going up strong and finishing."

"You can see it now. When he takes it in he's got a lot more confidence going against some of the bigger guys and gathering himself," Tucker said. "That's because pretty much I was pounding on him. We wasn't taking it easy."

For a little guard desiring a paint presence, Taylor had good teachers last season in Harris and then-senior Freddie Owens. Where Harris was electrifying with his assaults on the basket, Owens possessed uncanny poise and strength near the basket.

"I learned that from Freddie last year," Taylor said. "For him being 6-2 he was real solid…I just watched how he positioned his body to finish along the basket."

Taylor still feels he needs to get stronger.

"If you work hard things are going to come to you," Taylor said. "Devin didn't look as strong as people thought he was. I don't look as strong as most guys out there but it's all about toughness and how you approach things."

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