Chappell has perspective on championship run

Junior forward one of three current Badgers who played on 2003 Big Ten champion

MADISON—This has been a unique college basketball season for University of Wisconsin junior center Jason Chappell. Prior to this campaign, he had not received regular playing time since his prep school days four years ago. In two seasons at Wisconsin—plus a redshirt year—Chappell had played just 59 minutes in 22 games.

This year has provided a stark contrast. Chappell has started all 25 of UW's games and has played 526 minutes, or 21 minutes per game. That is an average of 10 more minutes per game than he received all of his true freshman season in 2002-03.

Even though Chappell's name registers a faint blip on the '02-03 season box score, he is deriving a great deal from the experiences of that season—the last time, just three years ago, when the Badgers won a Big Ten regular season championship. The only other current Badgers who were a part of that team are star forward Alando Tucker and senior guard Ray Nixon.

"You know how good of a feeling it was and it's definitely something you want to do again," Chappell explained.

He played just 11 minutes in eight games that season, and only appeared in four Big Ten games, officially receiving one minute in each of those games. But while he certainly would have liked to have played more, Chappell had a front-row seat for UW's title run on game days, and he was a part of the action every day in practice, working right along with the rest of his teammates to improve to the point that they could compete for that goal.

"You look back and realize how hard those guys had to work every day, and in the games, to get it," Chappell said.

Now, with four games left in Wisconsin's 2005-06 regular season, beginning with tonight's game at Northwestern, the Badgers have a chance to make another run at a conference championship. Sweep their last four games and they earn at least a tie.

"It's just something you want to be able to do when you have a little more of a spot on game days," Chappell said.

First things first, though, he insisted.

"We know that we've got Northwestern coming up and we're going to try to focus on that as much as we can and then look forward from there," he said. "In the back of our minds I know we've got four left but I'm not really paying attention to who they are or what's going on right now. It's like right now all about Northwestern."

Chappell has obviously had a much more significant role with the team this season than in years past. He scored all of four points in '02-03, redshirted the following year due to injuries, and scored 14 points in 48 minutes over 14 games last season.

The 6-foot-10 Chappell quickly emerged this season as the team's best all-around post defender, and heading into Big Ten play he was averaging 6.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

Foul trouble has eaten into his minutes from time to time this conference campaign, including the first game against NU, when he played just seven minutes in UW's emphatic win at the Kohl Center. Against Indiana two weeks ago—when the team got back on track with a dominating 72-54 win—Chappell received only six minutes and never took a shot due to foul issues. After that game, his conference-only averages were 2.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists.

He has bounced back since then, playing 28 minutes at Penn State and producing six points and nine rebounds. He had seven boards and two points in 16 nearly foul-free minutes (he was whistled once) in UW's win over Ohio State last week.

On the other hand, can those 526 minutes start to add up at this time of the year, for a player who was not accustomed to that over the long haul of a collegiate season?

"You can feel a little bit of a toll being taken on your body, but when we get to this, it's like we only have maybe a month, a little more, left of the season," Chappell said. "You can just pull through that.

"We're getting to where it really matters now. We've got four more games and if we win them we're Big Ten champs. You can pull through it even if you are feeling a little winded. I don't feel like that's really going to be a problem at this point."

It certainly helps to be in the hunt for a championship.

"It's in sight," Chappell said. "So it's definitely something we want to go after right now."

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