Chappell's opportunity arrives

Junior forward looking to make most of chance to start after three seasons buried on Badger bench

Five minutes before the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team's first exhibition game, Jason Chappell learned that he would be in the starting lineup.

Chappell's reaction?

"It's about time."

Chappell, a 6-foot-10, 240-pound forward/center, is expected to receive his first official career start tonight, when the Badgers tip off their season at 7:30 p.m. UW faces Norfolk State in its first of three games at the four-day Paradise Jam Tournament in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

Chappell has spent most of the past three seasons planted firmly toward the end of the Badger bench, with just 59 career minutes. His development has been hampered by injuries and he was buried on UW's roster until this season.

However, Chappell's fortunes began to change last spring, when forwards Mike Wilkinson, Zach Morley and Andreas Helmigk used up their eligibility.

"I knew ever since the end of last year, after we graduated all the people, that my opportunity was ready to come this year," Chappell said.

First-year assistant coach Howard Moore, who works with the Badgers' post players, is not surprised that the New Berlin native has earned a spot in the starting five. When Moore watched film of Chappell from last season's practices, he saw a versatile player with the skill set to contribute.

"I've said from day one, I think a kid like Jason, with his skill level and his size, his abilities, just needs confidence," Moore said. "And I think he's got that and he's doing a good job of taking advantage of the opportunity he has.

"No one's giving him anything. He's deserved this. He's earned it and I think he's going to take advantage of it."

In exhibitions against UW-River Falls and Lawrence, Chappell started at center, but he will also slide down from the ‘5' to the 4. Chappell was UW's fourth-leading scoring in the exhibitions, averaging 8.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 18.5 minutes per game.

"It felt good to finally be out there on the court when the jump ball comes out," Chappell said. "… It's nice knowing you are going to be a big part of the team this year on game days."

Chappell, whose father Len played nine seasons in the NBA, has always had potential. He moves well for a post player, is comfortable handling the ball and is a solid defender.

He struggled with inconsistency and injuries early in his UW career, however. He played just 11 minutes in eight games as a true freshman in 2002-03 and redshirted the following season after breaking his foot in practice.

As a sophomore last year, Chappell played 48 minutes in 14 games. A high ankle sprain hampered him early in the season and he was held out of practice for two brief stints.

This year Chappell has stayed healthy and consistently played well in practice.

"He's been in the program for going on four years now and I think it's a maturation process for him," Moore said. "Where now you (are) starting to see the fruit of being an older guy, and being an upperclassman."

Chappell has little game experience, but going up against players the caliber of Wilkinson, Morley and Helmigk in practice has helped his cause.

"You just got to come in every day and just play hard because if you didn't you get taken advantage of," Chappell said. "And now I'm a person that has to make sure that our younger guys are coming in and playing hard every day, otherwise I (have) to take advantage of them. I can't give them a day off."

Chappell will likely share minutes at the two post positions with three of those younger players. Third-year sophomore Brian Butch will start at the ‘4', while sophomore Greg Stiemsma and freshman Marcus Landry should play quality minutes off the bench.

Chappell is trying to take his starting role in stride.

"Nothing really changes. Still had to come to the games prepared to do stuff last year," he said. "Even if I thought that I might not play that much, I had to be prepared anyhow."

"(I) definitely don't want to lose my spot where I am right now," he added. "Just got to come in every day and work hard."

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