UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Gasser and Smith point out backcourt potential

Wquinton Smith can see the same thing as Josh Gasser. Even though they have much different sight lines on the UW basketball team, they both see available "minutes" in the backcourt.

Smith (5-10, 205) is a senior walk-on from Milwaukee Rufus King, who originally claimed a roster spot through an open tryout and has since shored up the scout team with his aggressive play.

Gasser (6-3, 185) is a scholarship freshman from Port Washington, who drew plenty of recruiting traffic after averaging 24 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists during his senior year.

Along with freshman Ben Brust, both are eyeing some playing time behind starting point guard Jordan Taylor. And by the sounds of it Gasser has already made a favorable early impression on UW coach Bo Ryan.

"He can see the floor; he played in AAU for a young man (Tyler Selk) that I recruited and had at Platteville," Ryan said. "His knowledge of the game and his court sense is really good. So he's ahead of a lot of freshman. And he's tough physically. He already had a run-in with Jordan. Josh came in second."

Ryan explained that the two players collided while diving for a loose ball on the floor during a drill in practice. "They hit pretty hard," Ryan added. "He got banged up a little bit, so he's nursing that. But that's a good sign. I wouldn't want to run into Jordan or Q (Wquinton) as a guard."

Taylor and Smith, who benches 310 pounds, are very physical.

"But Josh can play, Josh is smart," Ryan continued. "His shot is there. For him to go into the Field House (during last Saturday's scrimmage) and knock down three of them (triples) with ease ... Nothing seems to rattle him. That's what I like about."

The fact that Gasser played quarterback in football also endeared him to Ryan, a former prep QB, himself. "Quarterback is just like a point guard on the court," Gasser said. "You have to be a leader. You have to run the show. You're kind of in charge. Obviously, there are the physical aspects, too."

Did he agree with Ryan's observation about nothing rattling him? "I try not to get rattled," he said. "Sometimes you get frustrated. That's just the way it goes in sports. As a player, as a leader, as a guard, you can't (get rattled). Or it will pass on to the rest of your teammates."

Gasser pointed out that he's adjusting to how "physical and fast everything is" at the collegiate level while recognizing "you can't take a play off because if you do, it will show."

He noted playing AAU ball for Selk helped his transition to Ryan's drills and system. "I don't have huge expectations right now," Gasser said. "I want to get on the floor. I want to help the team."

Selk harped on many of the same fundamentals that have made Ryan's teams so sound. "Same as high school," Gasser said. "That's what we stressed: defense, rebounding, and no turnovers."

That's one way to get your foot into the door with the Badgers. What about those "minutes" in the backcourt? "Someone has to take them and it's kind of up for grabs right now," Gasser reasoned. "We have a lot of good guards. It's just a matter of who takes advantage of the opportunity."

That's exactly how Smith sees the competition for playing time. "It's just a matter of who wants to go out there and take them (the minutes)," he said. Incidentally, Smith was also a high school quarterback, who won first team all-conference recognition. He also played linebacker.

"I'm just basically trying to be a leader for the team - any role that coach Ryan wants me to play - that's what I'm willing to do," Smith added. "I'm trying to lead by example."

The difference now is that Smith has put himself in a position to be a contributor beyond the scout team. "We all have chances," he said. "It's a matter if we seize it or not. I have to make sure I take care of the ball and I'm a general on the floor. I have to make sure I'm doing everything right."

So far, Smith and Gasser are saying everything right.