To play or not to play

Redshirting is the question. UW coach hopes that exhibitions will someday help with answers

Michael Flowers, DeAaron Williams and Greg Stiemsma—the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team's three true freshmen—all have a very significant decision on their hands. Do they want to play this season or take a redshirt?

Under NCAA rules, if a player takes the court for a single second of game action, even in exhibition games, they relinquish a redshirt, unless an injury qualifies them for a medical option.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan would like to allow freshmen to play in exhibitions, such as the one Wisconsin hosts tonight against UW-Parkside, before making up their mind. He has been a vocal supporter of legislation proposed to the NCAA to that effect and Ryan feels the change could be implemented as early as next season.

"I think it would be a great idea," Minnesota head coach Don Monson said at the Big Ten media convention two weeks ago. "It makes sense so it is something that as coaches we should be obligated to try to bring it to [the NCAA]."

The rule being as it is currently, however, Stiemsma, for instance, is considering holding himself out of the Badgers' exhibitions simply to give himself more time to decide.

"We've tossed around the idea that I'd sit out the exhibition games just in case, because it's a couple weeks just to see how things play out," Stiemsma said.

Flowers said Monday that he planned on meeting with Ryan, then discussing his options with his parents and his brother, Jonte, who sat out a redshirt year with the Wisconsin football team last season before transferring to Winona State to play basketball.

"I have to talk to coach to see what his plans are for me…if he doesn't trust me out there with the ball then I'm going to redshirt," Flowers said. "I'll probably talk to my family about it too. See if they think that I should go ahead and give it my all or just take the safe road."

Due to his class schedule, Williams has not been available to reporters the past two weeks but is expected to play Wednesday. For Flowers and Stiemsma, little will be known until tip off and even then questions could remain.

"Just the fact that a guy isn't playing tomorrow doesn't mean that he's not playing for the season," Ryan said.

That said, Flowers wanted to have the decision out of the way by tip off Wednesday.

"Prolonging it really doesn't do anything. It is just a burden on your shoulders that you have to carry for a while," he said. "So make a good decision, really think hard about it and never second guess yourself about the decision."

A player can always take a redshirt off. It is deciding to keep it on in the first place that can be the tough part.

"You are eager as a freshman," senior guard Sharif Chambliss. "You've got a lot of energy. You want to come and you want to contribute to the team as much as you can."

It just does not always work out that way. Chambliss, for instance, played just 42 minutes in 10 games as a true freshman at Penn State.

"I should have redshirted but I think that experience helped me," Chambliss said. "But you can look at it on another side and maybe it was a waste of a year."

As he did last year with Brian Butch, Chambliss has often talked with Flowers, helping him sort through the potential pros and cons of either decision.

"Brian Butch made a great decision last year," Chambliss said. "Mike's a great player and I want to see him do what's best for him."

The Badgers had three players redshirt last season but all were more cut-and-dry cases than those facing the Williams, Flowers and Stiemsma. It was obvious that Butch was not physically strong enough to hold up in the Big Ten last season and both Alando Tucker and Jason Chappell needed to take redshirts to recover fully from foot injuries.

Stiemsma, however, has proven he is strong and athletic enough to play this year. He scored 10 points and blocked four shots, for instance, in Wisconsin's intrasquad scrimmage Sunday. He just needs to learn the finer points, such as how to stay out of foul trouble. But with Helmigk and Butch capable of holding down the center position, Stiemsma does not need to play for UW's sake.

Same goes for Williams and Flowers along the perimeter. They are athletic enough to earn minutes this year and hold up just fine but the Badgers have enough talent to be competitive with them resigned to practice.

Flowers' and Stiemsma's decisions are complicated by the fact that they each sat out much of their prep senior season due to injury.

"I'm leaning towards playing," Flowers said. "I just can't wait to get out there on the court. I like that feeling from [Sunday] and I just can't wait to play Big Ten basketball."

The true freshmen can pull from a variety of first-year experiences within their team.

Butch put his redshirt year to good use, adding 40 pounds and developing himself into a viable starter in one year. Fifth-year senior Mike Wilkinson is another player who obviously benefited from a redshirt year.

Kammron Taylor, meanwhile, chose to play last year, picking up just 41 minutes. Like Butch, he has a chance to start in his second year in the program.

Junior Ray Nixon has often been brandished about as a player who should have redshirted. He played just 17 minutes in eight games as a true freshman, then averaged 12.5 minutes in 15 games last year. This season, however, he appears poised for a breakout season after moving to the wing.

"Without me redshirting I've been maturing more. Playing every year I'm learning new things," Nixon said. "I think it's better for me that I didn't redshirt. I think it's worked out for me."

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