Seniors not ready to say goodbye

Badgers just want to survive to play again on Sunday; Wisconsin's unsung hero

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The five seniors playing for the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team know that the end is near. They just want to push that finish line as far into the future as they can.

"We just want to live to play another day, not put the uniforms up and play as long as possible," forward Zach Morley said.

"It's sort of like, I wouldn't say desperation but if you know something's going to end and it's going real well, you are having fun with it, you are going to do everything in your power to keep it going," guard Sharif Chambliss said.

The thought of shelving their cardinal and white uniforms is not something the seniors, or any of the Badgers for that matter, want to consider.

"That's something we don't want to have to worry about for a while," Morley said. "We just want to keep playing and when that day comes then we'll worry about it."

The sixth-seeded Badgers (24-8 overall) will have an opportunity to keep their season going at 6:27 p.m. Friday when they face 10th seed North Carolina State (21-13) in a Syracuse Regional semifinal at the Carrier Dome here. A victory would advance UW to an Elite Eight matchup Sunday with either No. 1 seed North Carolina or No. 5 seed Villanova.

"We're in the Sweet Sixteen," Chambliss said. "That's something to be proud of but we still have a lot of work ahead of us."

The seniors are not the only Badgers who do not want this season to reach its conclusion.

"Every year we are looking to take the program a step further," sophomore forward Alando Tucker said. "You can't be just satisfied with making it to the Sweet Sixteen. I know I'm not."

Unsung hero

One of Wisconsin's most valuable contributors has never touched the floor this season.

In a season chock full of lingering injuries, head trainer Henry Perez-Guerra has kept the Badgers in working order.

"The hours he works is unbelievable," senior guard Clayton Hanson said. "It doesn't matter what day it is or what time of day we got a guy rehabbing, he's here working with them. It's kind of a comfort level as a player knowing that with that kind of experience — injuries are going to happen — but you have support."

Some of the Badgers' best friends this season have been their trusty ice packs, which have been a staple of postgame press conferences. Senior guard Sharif Chambliss has had his surgically repaired left knee on ice following practices and games throughout the season. Forwards Alando Tucker, Mike Wilkinson and Zach Morley have also been bothered by injuries for much of this season. Young reserve forwards Brian Butch, Greg Stiemsma and Jason Chappell have all missed time due to injury.

"There's a lot of days where you just feel like you can't do it," Morley said. "You go in and see him and get treatment and he makes it possible. He deserves a lot of credit."

"We've had a lot of injuries on this team and the way he gets the guys back so fast really helps out the team," sophomore guard Kammron Taylor said. "Without him we'd probably have half a team right now. He means a great deal."

The key is Perez-Guerra's focus on preventative care. Players visit him to receive ice packs or massages for aching muscles, sore joints are taped or wrapped before practice and an assortment of stretching and strengthening exercises help the Badgers recover from games and practices — and to be ready for the days ahead.

"He makes sure that we're prepared for practice, every practice," Tucker said. "He obviously wants us to be able to perform in the game. So in practice if we have to get taped up… or ice certain areas, he makes sure he's on top of that. His ultimate goal is to make sure each player is prepared for each game."

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