UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Q, as in quality minutes

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On Wednesday, Wquinton Smith was Indiana's Verdell Jones.

On Friday, Wquinton Smith was Northwestern's Michael Thompson.

Between these two scout team assignments he received the ultimate reward.

Q_NC_State.jpgOn Thursday, Wquinton Smith got some playing time as Wquinton Smith.

He didn't disappoint, either.

Coming off the bench, Smith responded with some quality minutes in Wisconsin's 69-60 victory over Indiana at the Kohl Center. His biggest contribution came in the first half when the Badgers needed a spark after falling behind 14-6 to the Hoosiers, who got 10 straight points from Jordan Hulls.

Following the first media timeout, Smith entered the game expecting to check Hulls. "I was mainly sent in to break his confidence a little,'' said Smith, a senior walk-on from Milwaukee Rufus King. "I wanted to make sure I chased him as hard as I could and he didn't get any shots.''

The irony is that the Hoosiers substituted for Hulls, who got a short rest.

Smith, meanwhile, didn't waste any time proving that he belonged on the floor.

With the shot clock running down, Smith made a good read and found Mike Bruesewitz in the paint for a layup. "That gave me a little confidence,'' Smith said. "I'm just trying to contribute every time I get in there. I'm giving it my all because I don't know how long I'm going to be in there.''

After Tim Jarmusz blocked Victor Oladipo's shot and Jon Leuer cleared the defensive glass, Smith went back to work on offense with a drive and a score. "I saw a 'big' on me and I made sure I took the ball to the basket and pump faked,'' Smith said. "Just like the coaches tell us to do.''

In a subsequent loose-ball scramble, the 5-foot-10 Smith got a tie-up with a "big'' - Indiana's 6-9 Derek Elston. Before his six-minute shift was over, Smith broke up an intended pick-and-roll to the rim with a steal, and assisted on a Jordan Taylor jumper in the midst of Taylor scoring eight straight points.

"I love watching him,'' Taylor said.

Smith ended up playing 12 minutes after logging seven minutes in his first three Big Ten appearances combined. That's the most he has played since Dec. 1, when he got 16 minutes in a win over North Carolina State.  His career high is 17 minutes - as a starter - against Prairie View A&M.

"It's all about confidence,'' said Smith who earned a roster spot via an all-campus tryout as a freshman. "If you get down it can start affecting your play. That's when you might not see the floor again. You just have to make sure you're optimistic about everything. That's how I've tried to be.''

Jarmusz, like Taylor, was impressed with Smith's production against the Hoosiers. "We were looking a little flat at the start and he came off with a bang and made some good hustle plays,'' Jarmusz said. "We know he has the ability. He's a good guy, he plays hard and I couldn't be happier for him.''

Jarmusz and Taylor get a dose of Smith every day in practice. As the scout team point guard, Smith simulates what the Badgers are going to see from their next opponent. This week, he has been running plays as Indiana's Jones and Northwestern's Thompson.

"I'm the one that usually ends up guarding him,'' Jarmusz said.

At the other end of the floor, Smith usually ends up guarding Taylor.

"He has just been waiting to get his chance,'' Taylor said.

That has been the tough part - being patient. "I'm just trying to stay aggressive in practice,'' Smith said. "Coach (Bo) Ryan needs to see something out of me to put me in the game. And he always says that once you get in there you've got to find a way to contribute. I can grow from this.''

The challenge for Smith is preparing himself for an opponent while preparing others.

"He very rarely gets any reps with the regulars,'' said UW associate head coach Greg Gard. "He didn't see one possession of our offense in preparation for Indiana. Instead, he was Verdell Jones - he was the guy coming off those ball screens with the other color jersey on.

"And what you saw against Indiana - and I thought he did a great job of being aggressive in the amount of time he was in there - is what he has done on the scout team. He gets to the rim a lot.''

Can this be a springboard? "Anytime you get some game experience - whether it's 30 minutes or 30 seconds - you can build on it for the next opportunity, whenever that comes,'' Gard said.

Message received. "I have to keep hustling,'' Smith said. "I don't know how long I'm going to be in a game, but when I do get in, I just need to keep the energy level high and contribute.''

Morphing into Michael Thompson brought a smile to his face.

"I get to shoot a little bit more in practice,'' Smith said, chuckling.

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I am so proud of you Quint. Continue to let God's light luminate your path.

ON WISCONSIN