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Ryan reaches way back to find comparisons for Gasser, Brust

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UW basketball coach Bo Ryan loves filling in the blanks. He's hooked on crossword puzzles. He also loves connecting the dots. Drawing from his vast experience, he's prone to make comparisons between players from different generations based on anything from body language to shot-making.

That can draw a lot of blanks from people who have no idea who or what he's talking about.

Josh Gasser is a 6-foot-3, 185-pound freshman guard from Port Washington. Gasser's build and movements and success in multiple sports reminds Ryan of Bob Falk, a 6-2, 183-pound guard from Madison West High School who played for the Badgers in the mid-'70s.

Ben Brust is a 6-1, 190-pound freshman guard from Hawthorn Woods, Ill., (Mundelein).  Brust has a little runner or "flip shot" that reminds Ryan of Johnny Egan, a 5-11 guard from Providence College, who played 12 years in the NBA with six different teams from 1961-1972.

Bob Falk?

Some local historians can make an argument for Falk being one of the finest all-around athletes ever produced in Madison. At least he should be in the discussion after excelling in football, basketball and baseball for the Regents.

In 1972, Falk's skill as a basketball player was recognized when he was named the Player of the Year in the state of Wisconsin. Falk helped lead West to the semifinals of the WIAA tournament. But the Regents came up short against Milwaukee Hamilton after Falk went down with a knee injury.

Following his prep career - during which he was named all-state in both football and basketball - Falk spent one year at the University of Kansas before returning to Madison and enrolling at the UW where he played two seasons for John Powless and one for Bill Cofield, whose staff included Ryan.

Falk was such an outstanding high school quarterback prospect, he was talked into going out for football with the Badgers. But he made a far bigger name for himself in basketball with one timely jump-shot against Indiana at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind.

On Feb. 24, 1977, Falk was in the UW starting lineup along with Clyde Gaines,  James "Stretch'' Gregory, Sugar Ray Sydnor and Joe Chrnelich. The Badgers caught a break because the Hoosiers were playing without their All-American center Kent Benson, who was sidelined with a back injury.

With three seconds remaining, Falk knocked down his jumper from the deep right corner to lift the Badgers to an improbable 66-64 victory over the Hoosiers. Falk finished with a game-high 19 points.  Ryan was on the bench that night and, fittingly, he was on the bench - as UW's first-year head coach - when the Badgers snapped a 22-game losing streak in Assembly Hall by beating the Hoosiers in 2002.

Oh, that Bob Falk.

But what about Johnny Egan?

As a New England schoolboy phenom, Egan was predicted to have great success at Providence College for coach Joe Mullaney. And he lived up those expectations while teaming in the backcourt with Lenny Wilkens. Together, they carried the Friars to an NIT championship in 1961.

Egan, a two-time All-American, averaged 17.9 points and ended up with 1,434 career points. A first-round draft pick of the Detroit Pistons, he also played for the Knicks, the Bullets, the Lakers, the Cavs and the Rockets. After his playing days were over, Egan replaced Tex Winter and coached the Rockets for four years before being replaced himself by Tom Nissalke.

 In 2008, Providence retired Egan's No. 34 adding his name to a short of list Friars who have their numbers hanging from the rafters: Wilkens, Jimmy Walker, Ernie DeGregorio and Marvin Barnes.

Oh, that Johnny Egan.

 Now that's old school.

To this end, Ryan, like many coaches, has named different post moves after former NBA legends for the sake of identification and instant recognition. In practice, for example, he might tell a player, "I want you to Bernie into a McHale."

Translation: Ryan wants the player to use a shoulder fake one way and as he's turning to shoot the other way - drawing a defender - he wants him to use a little jump hook.

The Bernie is named after Bernard King who played 11 seasons in the NBA. The McHale is named after Kevin McHale, the former Minnesota Gopher, who went on to stardom with the Boston Celtics.

The other post moves honor Moses Malone (a drop step and power move); Dominique Wilkins (an up and under move); and Jack Sikma (a reverse pivot where you open up to the basket).

Ryan was asked if he has given any thought to updating the post moves to reflect more contemporary players. Maybe the Kobe? The LeBron? The D-Wade? The Durant? The CP3?

Might he consider changing?

"Not really," Ryan said. "Not as long as the guys I'm coaching know what they are."

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