Iron Man

No player in the history of Wisconsin basketball has played more minutes or more games than Mike Wilkinson

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — It is a simple truth: Mike Wilkinson would not have achieved his gaudy career statistics without being a winner.

Friday, he added two very impressive feathers to his cap. Wilkinson established a new University of Wisconsin career mark for minutes played with 3,984 and he tied former teammate Charlie Wills for the most games ever played in a Badger uniform with 129.

Wilkinson, a 6-foot-8 senior forward, could not have achieved this feat without UW's 25 wins this season; not without advancing to the Big Ten Tournament championship game and the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight, securing the right to play a seventh postseason game when the sixth seeded Badgers (25-8) take the floor at the Carrier Dome here Sunday for a 1:40 p.m. tip with top seed North Carolina (30-4).

"It's just a lot of hard work and I give a lot of praise to my teammates, because one person can't do it," Wilkinson said earlier this week. "I've had so many great teammates and so many great guys and the coaches have been amazing. We've just been there for each other and worked so well together that we've played more games."

Wilkinson deserves credit for participating in every game the Badgers have played the past four years, and for contributing positively to 93 victories along the way, a school record for a four-year span.

Win No. 94 would earn Wilkinson and UW a trip to next week's NCAA Final Four in St. Louis.

"We don't want to go home," Wilkinson said. "We still want to keep playing. We haven't looked back at anything we've done this year. I couldn't even tell you how many games I've played, how many games I've won. We just want to keep playing and win this next one and go from there."

The Blue Mounds, Wis., native started his 97th consecutive game Friday, moving into eighth place on the Badgers' all-time career starts list. He has played his 129 career games without ever missing an opportunity to take the court for UW and will break Wills' games played record with his 130th appearance Sunday.

"Mike's a durable player obviously," senior guard Sharif Chambliss said. "He works hard in the weight room; hard working guy no matter if he scores or if he's injured."

"It says a lot about his work ethic, plus a lot about how much he's conditioned and taking care of his body and how serious he is about his job, so to speak," associate head coach Rob Jeter said. "A lot of guys get injured, and injuries pay a toll, but he really takes care of his body, he lifts hard, he conditions hard. He's been lucky with injuries; some of that is luck too."

Wilkinson has played through his share of bumps and bruises, aches, pains and tweaked muscles along the way, including a leg injury that restricted him in practice and hurt him in a game with Marquette early this season, and a separate, unrelated leg injury that hampered him late this season. But Wilkinson has never complained and has managed to stay remarkably healthy over the course of his career.

"There's always little things but those aren't too bad," Wilkinson said. "The trainers have done a great job since I've been here of just keeping you healthy, being real preventative with stuff. It gives you the opportunity to be a competitor and gives you the opportunity to compete and play.

"As a person you just got to take advice. You can't not show up to certain appointments, and not go home and take care of yourself. Just always thinking, always staying on the preventative side."

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