Many fans thought that last years Red and White scrimmage was the coming out party for the junior power forward. Nankivil displayed power, agility, grace, a soft-shooting touch and athleticism around the basket. Over the course of last year, Nankivil showed flashes of the type of player many anticipated him becoming; however, Nankivil was unable to maintain a consistent level of play and his season was plagued by inconsistency, injuries and stretches in which he would disappear.
After another solid exhibition showing, Wisconsin fans aren't the only one hoping that this time, the results carry over.
Consistently knocking down outside shots and taking the ball hoop where he had the height advantage, Nankivil finished with a game-high 16 points on 7-11 shooting from the field, helping the Badgers have their way with UW-Superior to post a 80-47 exhibition victory Wednesday.
"I think that the way our team played the last two games is a big difference with how we played exhibition last year, as far as confidence playing as a team," Nankivil said. "You can see that we are a little more ready to attack the season than we were last year."
The same goes for Nankivil, who dedicated himself this off-season to getting into peak physical condition to be an accountable post presence. Perhaps the presence of seniors Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft left Nankivil hesitant on the offensive but whatever the case, this year Nankivil appears more confident in his shot and more assertive on the offensive end.
Nankivil's confidence and aggression on offensive have been one of the more noticeable developments through the end of the exhibition season. Granted the competition has been weak, Nankivil has looked like the consistent inside-outside threat he was touted to be.
"Shooting is one of the easiest things to improve just because it's time and repetitions where some of the other stuff we're doing well is pre-season work with defense and all that," Nankivil said. "It's probably better to be shooting a lower percentage and better at that other stuff than hitting all our shots and not good at that stuff."
The game itself was in the Badgers hands from the start and Wisconsin was simply bigger, stronger and faster than the Yellowjackets. Senior Trevon Hughes led the defensive charge with a game high-10 steals and seemed to lock up any player who happened to touch the ball on the perimeter.
On offense, Hughes easily beat his man off the dribble and was able to attack the middle of the lane, resulting in a game-high nine assists and zero turnovers. Throw in his nine points and Hughes nearly flirted with a triple-double.
"We've got more depth, so I am not worried about going out there and getting tired," Hughes said. "I'm going to give it my all, and I know Jordan (Taylor) will pick up the slack when he comes in. There's nothing for me to worry about, just lay my body on the line for the team."
Overall, the Badgers struggled from the perimeter (3-of-19 for 15.8 percent), but compensated by Jon Leuer and Nankivil in the post scoring at will from the inside. Leuer finished the game with 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting and was able to score on a variety of spins and turn-around jumpers in the low post.
"The shot selection was good, we just need to finish better around the basket," said UW coach Bo Ryan, as the Badgers out score UW-Superior 50-14 in the paint. "We're going around the basket in practice every day two 7-footers that are on the scout today. Today in the post, you've got some 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6 guys, and they were able to disrupt some of the things we were doing at a different level … We're going to play teams that are smaller than us, and you've got to be ready to handle that."
Additionally, the Badgers, for the second exhibition game, made a consistent effort to push the ball up the court and initiate the offense early in the shot clock, something that was glaringly missing from the team last year.
Wednesday's victory over UW-Superior showed that the Badgers appear to have solidified a nine-man rotation with the potential for freshman Mike Bruesewitz to also earn some minutes.
The Badgers trot out a starting five of Hughes and Jason Bohannon in the backcourt while Tim Jarmusz, Leuer and Nankivil man the frontcourt. Off the bench, the Badgers offer Jordan Taylor as the backup point guard while Rob Wilson serves as a backup wing player and Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren backup the post positions.
The Badgers begin their non-conference play and start the regular season this Sunday against IPFW.