Men's hoops: Opportunity knocks

True freshman walk-on Kevin Gullikson could work his way into the Badgers' rotation

MADISON—Fans of the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team could be seeing a lot more of Kevin Gullikson in the games to come.

A 6-foot-7 true freshman walk-on forward, Gullikson stands to pick up some of the minutes recently left on the table in the Badgers' rotation.

Monday, reserve forward Marcus Landry announced that he will not play again this season, having been ruled academically ineligible for the spring semester. Reserve center Greg Stiemsma returned to practice Monday after taking a leave of absence for undisclosed medical reasons Jan. 17, but it is unclear when he will return for games.

Landry and Stiemsma have not played since UW's 68-52 win over Northwestern Jan. 14. In 16 games off the bench, the post duo combined to average 27.1 minutes, 8.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.

In an effort to replace that production—and bolster a rotation that has been reduced to seven players—the Badgers have been working Gullikson into the lineup more often in practice. The Stillwater, Minn. native played two minutes in the first half of Saturday's loss to North Dakota State. He scored one point on 1 of 2 free-throw shooting and committed one turnover. His line in the box score did not jump out, but receiving first-half minutes was key for a player who had played just 11 mostly mop-up minutes in seven previous appearances.

"It was a rush for me, just getting in there and just playing… in a quality part of the game," Gullikson said. "I enjoyed it a lot."

Gullikson said he models his game after former Stanford star and current Minnesota Timberwolves forward Mark Madsen—the hustling role player type.

"I try to bring a lot of energy," Gullikson said. "I'm trying to make something happen even if I don't have the ball."

The obvious change in UW's lineup without Landry and Stiemsma is a significant loss of size off the bench. Gullikson can help diminish that loss.

"He has a good IQ for the game," assistant coach Howard Moore said. "He's got a lot of energy, plays with some force and a lot of activity…

"He's got ability to shoot the ball, and he's got some post ability inside as well. Kevin (will) be able to help us. With certain matchups we feel very confident about him doing some things to help us."

Gullikson is not likely to step in and start playing 10 minutes a game, though he could grow into that kind of a role. Most of Landry's and Stiemsma's minutes will be spread across UW's top seven players, with freshman reserve forward Joe Krabbenhoft and starting forward Brian Butch and center Jason Chappell likely standing to gain the most. But Gullikson's development could do wonders for UW's depth.

"I'm just learning everything from my teammates around me," Gullikson said. "Just everybody who's been doing this all year. Just getting thrown in there I've got to pick things up at a fast rate. I'm just observing everybody else around me like I have all year. So now it's just putting what I've seen on to the court."

Gullikson accepted an opportunity to walk on at UW despite receiving scholarship offers from mid-major programs such as Albany, Siena, Holy Cross and Wofford. He also strongly considered opportunities to play basketball at Ivy League schools Cornell and Penn.

"I've always loved Wisconsin," Gullikson said. His father, Gary Gullikson, attended UW and his family used to visit Madison to watch Minnesota and Wisconsin play football. "We'd go to Camp Randall and I just always loved it here.

"On the basketball side I just wanted a challenge, I wanted to play at the highest level possible. And that's why I chose (Wisconsin)."

Gullickson averaged 20.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game and was a second-team all-state selection as a senior.

"Kevin is a guy that I'm not leery of putting out there on the floor," head coach Bo Ryan said. "I like what he's doing. I like how hard he's worked in practice. He commits all the time to what the scout team does and always works on the shooting drills and always has a lot of energy to do the things that are presented to him. You've got to like those kind of people."

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