Men's hoops: UW serves up youth

Badgers look to fit versatile pieces into puzzle

For the second season in a row, the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team must replace four starters. A year ago, however, the Badgers were still a veteran team, with five seniors commanding minutes and providing production and leadership.

Now, in head coach Bo Ryan's fifth season at UW, the Badgers' 15-player roster includes seven freshmen, three of whom are walk-ons.

"That's basically half our team," junior point guard Kammron Taylor said. "I think they are ready for the challenge. Everybody's looking good. Everybody's playing well and as long as you are willing to listen to Coach Ryan he's going to make you a better player."

Taylor, who started 12 games last season and was third on the team at 8.4 points per game, appears to be one of the few locks for regular playing time. Another certainly is junior forward Alando Tucker, one of the preseason favorites for Big Ten Player of the Year honors. Sophomores forward/center Brian Butch and guard Michael Flowers look to be next in line.

There are loads of minutes to be earned, however, after watching Mike Wilkinson, Clayton Hanson, Sharif Chambliss, Zach Morley and Andreas Helmigk complete their eligibility.

After playing power forward as a freshman and shifting between the "4" and the "3" as sophomore, Tucker expects to stay at small forward throughout this season.

It is a reasonable assumption, given that Wisconsin has 6-11 sophomores Butch and Greg Stiemsma, 6-10 junior Jason Chappell, and 6-7 freshmen Marcus Landry and Kevin Gullickson working in the post positions.

Several other players could play at the 4 this season, an example of the flexibility on the Badger roster.

Flowers could play either guard position or the 3.

"It's too early in the season to tell where I'm going to be out there on the court but I just hope I can play the 1 and 2 and just get some time," Flowers said.

Highly touted freshman Joe Krabbenhoft is focusing on the 2 and the 3 but at 6-7 and 223 pounds, he could also slide down to the 4. Redshirt freshman DeAaron Williams also is primarily a 2 or 3 but said he could play some at the 4. Ray Nixon, the only senior on the roster, has spent his career at the 3 or the 4, but is working out as a 2/3 this year.

Landry originally thought he would play more of a 3 at Wisconsin, but he feels comfortable at the 4. That matches the natural position of his brother, Purdue star Carl Landry.

"If I fill out like my brother then, hey, it's a 4 spot," Landry said. "Wherever he's (Bo Ryan) going to put me at that's where I'm going to play. I'm willing to do whatever it takes for us to win."

With so much transition on the Wisconsin roster this season a player of Landry's caliber could rise up and play substantial minutes, or even start, as a true freshman. Asked if he expects to earn to significant playing time immediately, Landry echoed the statements of several of his young teammates.

"Well I think everyone would say yes to that question but the only thing I can say is whatever Coach Ryan decides that's what's going to happen," Landry said. "If I play, I play. I'm really looking forward to playing a lot of minutes this year. If that's what it is, that's what it is."

Goodbye boot: Krabbenhoft is ready to discard another surplus piece of footwear. Over the summer he broke his left foot — the fourth time he has fractured a foot since his freshman year at Sioux Falls (S.D.) Roosevelt High School.

Krabbenhoft has always discarded the protective boots that have helped him recuperate. At a doctor's appointment next week, Krabbenhoft expects to receive the final go ahead to trash his most recent boot.

"Maybe I'll send it home with my dad," Krabbenhoft said. "He's been through everything with me. Maybe I'll let him have a little burial ceremony."

Krabbenhoft has been cleared to play for the past two weeks and has taken part in all the Badgers' workouts since formal practices began Oct. 14.

Williams on the mend: Williams has missed the last three days of practice, but both he and Ryan declined comment when asked what the nature of the injury was. Williams, however, said it was nothing serious.

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