You get to the point where you feel like you are just starting to understand a person, and then 'whammo!'...they are gone. That feeling seems to happen every March.
When the Badgers take on the Spartans, for what seems like the 12th time in 13 games, on Saturday, there will be some heavy hearts and eyes. Fans will be getting their last look at Jason Chappell, Kammron Taylor, and Alando Tucker in the cardinal and white jerseys they have been accustomed to viewing them. Soak it up, these guys have left an pretty big impression on the program.
IT AIN'T EASY, BEING CHEEZY
Chappell, a 6-10 post player, has always understood that his role on the team was not to be the scorer. "I am out there to keep the flow of the offense going. If I get to score now and then, great. Whatever I can do to help the team is what I want to do." Those were his words before the season started at the media day festivities.
Whether it is setting a solid screen, grabbing an offensive rebound, grabbing a defensive rebound, asserting his position to take a charge, or just plain working harder than the next guy - Chappell 'does his thing'. He is not going to put up 15 points and 10 rebounds. But he will give you six points, six rebounds, four assists, and a steal when he is stuffing the stat sheet. He understands that is not his job, though.
"When we win, my stats don't matter." Chappell said. "Everyone gets the win, not just the guy who puts up all the statistics. We are all happy."
You would expect that from a guy like 'J-Cheezy'. He is the guy you want on the floor with you, and the fella you want to be around. Every team has their scorers. Not every team has a leader...like Chappell.
ROCKIN' WITH TAYLOR
The comparisons are obviously going to follow him for a while. To be honest, they really do not get to him.
"Yeah, I have heard it." says Kammron Taylor of people saying he looks like actor Chris Rock. "In the Big Ten on the road you hear a lot of stuff. So hearing that is not a problem. I just hope I don't play ball like him."
Well, he looks like the loquacious Rock but definitely plays basketball much better.
Taylor, who grew up and played high school basketball in the shadows of the University of Minnesota, makes the game look easy at times.
Like when he dropped 22 points on Mercer in the season opener, making four of the five attempts he threw up from downtown. Or the 25 he went off on OSU with when the Badgers knocked off the visiting Buckeyes back on January 9th. The scoring has never been the issue, his floor control has.
But this season, his leadership has taken control and that is major reason why this team has won 26 of its' 30 games played.
Having a 'rock' like Kammron on the court for 30 minutes a night is something all teams would love. He scores 13 points a game, makes near 80 percent of his free throws, plays solid defense, and just has that extra heartbeat. Not to mention, his personality and laughter are pretty darn contagious.
"Kam is somebody you want to be around." forward Brian Butch said "Yeah, he does kind of look like Chris Rock, but Rock does not have much on him (Taylor). I know Kam and that is the big difference. I like knowing him."
So whether you see him on the big screen or the hardwood, it matters not. Having had the chance to watching him as a Badger is going to leave an indelible impression for years to come.
'DO-ING WHAT NOT MANY OTHERS HAVE
What can you say about Alando Tucker that has probably not already been told? Probably not very much.
Just read what some national figures (and coaches) have said about him throughout this season:
ESPN's Dick Vitale: He is a special player and talent. I mean this kid does it all. He can score from the inside or the perimeter. He is a PTP'er, a prime time player who is going to make it big on the next level.
ESPN's Andy Katz: Tucker is the consummate leader. He usually saves his best stuff for the big games. That is the mark of a big-time player.
Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but look at what Alando has done over five years in college basketball. He is the most valuable player out there.
Ohio Coach Thad Matta: Guys like him don't come around very often, and they usually don't stay for five years. He is a rare quality in the college game. A great player and leader who makes everyone around him better.
No matter who says it, they are all pretty much on the money. Wisconsin fans know that better than anyone.
You are getting to see one of the best players in the history of the basketball program take the home stage for the final time today. If he scores 49 points from now until the season ends for the Badgers, he will surpass Michael Finley as the best scorer of all-time. Even in a conference that has been full of great players through the years, the Big Ten has not seen a 2,000 point scorer since A.J. Guyton of Indiana in 1997-2000.
He is doing something pretty special. He is also leading a team to a school-record for wins. In fact, in his time at UW the team just six wins shy of 100. How many Badgers have been able to say that?
None. Well, unless you were a part of the teams Alando has played on. If you want to get technical, he has 98 wins because the team won all four games he played in during the 2003-04 season before going down to injury.
No matter how you slice it, Chappell, Taylor, and Tucker are setting the bar pretty high for future Badgers.
You have to appreciate that gift.