Striving for Satisfaction

With Wisconsin lacking a dominant post presence during times last season, Keaton Nankivil took it personally that he couldn't fill a needed void for the Badgers. Now entering his junior year, Nankivil has pushed himself harder in the off-season than he ever has, hoping to be that missing piece in the Wisconsin frontcourt.

MADISON - If Keaton Nankivil ever decided to get a word tattooed on his 6-foot-8, 245-pound body, ‘accountability' might be right there at the top of his list.

It's something Nankivil has strived for since the Madison Memorial standout committed to Wisconsin, and something that has been elusive to hold on to.

He started 20 of UW's first 21 games last season, but was limited by an ankle injury down the stretch, playing 14 minutes or less in 10 of UW's final 12 games. He showed he could score – shooting 6-of-8, including 5-of-5 from three-point range, a career-best 21 points against Purdue – at times, but scored in double-digits in only five of 33 games.

With UW in need of a production from its post players heading into the 2009 season, Nankivil has focused on being the responsible player the Badgers need in the paint.

"I have tried my best; I know that we worked on it a lot in the off-season in individuals and the preseason," Nankivil said. "There's a lot to it, and it's more than just being in there and taking up space. We all know that it can help the team and we have a lot of guys that are ready to take that roll on."

"It's hard to get those (Purdue) results every day, but you have to figure out your role and where you can get things done and take advantage of those opportunities, instead of letting it come about every five to six games."

Last season was Nankivil's first real run through the Big Ten conference after averaging 2.4 minutes in 19 games his freshman season. Just like teammates Jason Bohannon, Trevon Hughes and Jon Leuer in their first seasons, the grind of the physical conference started to wear on Nankivil, but it's only pushed him harder.

"I really like the way Keaton ran the hill," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "And that's a start from the standpoint of their feet, their drive and their stamina. Keaton couldn't (run) the hill last year … but now Keaton, wow, he went out there and blew the hill. He blew it up. So the stamina started there."

Knowing he has the abilities to play in the post, Nankivil has been pushing himself to guard a variety of match-ups in practice from guarding Tim Jarmusz at the three to Jon Leuer at the four to J.P. Gavinski at the five.

Some of that versatility showed during the Badgers Red-White scrimmage. In 34 minutes on the court, the junior scored a game-high 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including 2-of-3 from three-point range, grabbed seven rebounds and committed only a single foul.

The versatility Nankivil is trying to gain is hoping to provide dividends to help fill the void in the rebound department left by Joe Krabbenhoft and the blocks taken by Marcus Landry to the NBA.

"That's three different levels to the game I am trying to learn," Nankivil said. "I learned a ton (playing with Joe and Marcus). As a young player going through the Big Ten and going through the whole season, you learn a lot being around those people everyday. Just the way those guys acted and the way they presented everything they knew, it really helps spread their knowledge to people."

With the way Krabbenhoft and Landry carried themselves, it's only fitting that the Badgers plan on replacing last year's leading scorer (Landry) and last year's leading rebounder (Krabbenhoft) with a committee approach.

The Badgers did it when Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor left and they did it when Brian Butch and Michael Flowers left. Now, the Badgers will rely on key players to pick up the slack, a role that starts with Nankivil.

"You can say an individual plugs those numbers because it's too hard," said Nankivil. "Hopefully I can take a big portion of that on my shoulders, but I think it's the entire group that makes up for those numbers."


Badger Nation Top Stories