UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: New Bohannon not your typical transfer

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Considering the physical nature of Big Ten basketball - the hand-to-hand "combat" and the "warfare" in the paint - Zach Bohannon may be ahead of the curve in his transition to the conference.

Bohannon Drive - BYU.jpgBefore transferring to Wisconsin, Bohannon took part in combat survival training at the Air Force Academy. What better way to get ready for road games at Michigan State and Purdue?

"Probably one of the toughest things I've done in my life so far," he said.

First things first; Bohannon must redshirt the 2011-12 season due to NCAA transfer rules. That will give him time to adjust to his new surroundings in preparation for his final two years of eligibility.

In turn, Bohannon, 21, will try to take advantage of the wait by stabilizing his weight; something that he wasn't able to do during his two years at the Academy because of the rigid training demands.

That included six weeks of basic cadet training during Bohannon's first summer in Colorado Springs; and three weeks of combat survival training during his second summer.

"They take a group of about 10 guys and put you in the woods for about 9 days," Bohannon said. "They gave us three rabbits and two chickens. We had to kill them for our food.

"They taught you how to survive on your own - evading the different forces that might be out there - laying low for hours without getting caught.

"There were different tactics and scenarios. If you were a downed pilot, you had to carry around 70 pounds of weight on your back - without a doubt, it was tough; toughest thing I've done.

"You were just so excited to get back to your dorm and the cafeteria food that you hated."

He lost 15 pounds the first summer and 20 the second as his weight dipped below 180. He got back up to 200 for his sophomore year. Currently, he's carrying 215 pounds on his 6-foot-8 frame.
    
"I've been able to hold on to this weight consistently over the last five or six weeks," Bohannon said. "And it feels really good being able to work out at a high level, too."

More often than not, a transfer is apt to be viewed as a "work in progress" - even if that transfer's last name still resonates with Badger fans because of the connection with his older brother.

Jason Bohannon played in the second most games (135) and made the fourth-most 3-pointers (212) in school history, while scoring 1,170 career points to rank No. 22 on the all-time UW list.
   
"J-Bo" naturally cast a shadow over "Z-Bo"; never more so than after Jason Bohannon was named Mr. Basketball in the state of Iowa culminating his high school playing days at Linn-Mar in Marion, Ia.
   
"One of the things that I worried about even in high school was, 'Wow, Jason had a heckuva career, I don't know how I'm going to be able to follow that,'" Zach Bohannon admitted.

Enter their dad, Gordie Bohannon, a former Iowa quarterback who instructed Zach, "Don't worry about trying to be the next Jason Bohannon, just worry about being Zach Bohannon."

He took those words to heart.

"I kind of took that mindset in high school and had a pretty good career; nothing close to what Jason did and some the records that he broke," Zach Bohannon said.

"Still, it was kind of important to make an identity for myself; I really wanted to get away. That's why I wanted to go to the Air Force Academy in the first place - to not be in that shadow anymore.

"But the one thing I learned was that Jason made me who I am today - and I didn't know why I was trying to run away from that."

Looking back, he felt like it was "kind of an immature decision" to use the pressure inherent to following in the footsteps of his brother as "one of the underlying reasons" to not go somewhere.

Not that Zach Bohannon has any regrets about his two years at the Academy. On the contrary, he believes that he's a "better person" for having gone through what he did as an Air Force cadet.
   
But adding to the urgency and complexities of his decision was the fact that he would have gone on the clock as a junior and been obligated to a military commitment following graduation.
   
That was simply not something that he was interested in doing.

"Besides the discipline, which is a given at a service academy," Bohannon said, "the one thing I probably learned the best was summed up in this quote, 'Tough times don't last but tough people do.'

"They give you a ton of quotes and that was the biggest message overall; the one that I carried out during the time I was there - as tough as times gets, it will never end up being that bad."

Injuries prevented Bohannon from reaching his expectations last season. He missed the first 10 games after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus in his knee and a torn ligament in his thumb.
   
Averaging 13 minutes in 22 games, including one start, Bohannon shot 49 percent from the field and averaged 4.3 points. Against Utah, he had 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

There will be few, if any comparisons between J-Bo and Z-Bo and their shooting mechanics.
   
"I really can't describe it, but all of my teammates at Air Force gave me the nickname, 'Paul Pierce,'" said Zach Bohannon in reference to the unconventional form of the Boston Celtics guard.

 "They tell me I have an ugly game. But the results speak for themselves.

"Jason had a textbook jumper growing up and it just continued during his college career. I was always a post (player) and never really had the ball skills because I was taller for my group."

UW senior guard Jordan Taylor offered this early scouting report on Zach Bohannon.
"He's just like J-Bo in his mannerisms, but he's a little different player," Taylor said. "He's bigger so he can use his size; he's a good defender. His stroke isn't as pure as J-Bo's but he still makes shots."

Zach Bohannon had options once he left the Academy. Some programs met his needs more than others.

Over the last four years, Zach Bohannon has attended a handful of games each season at the Kohl Center. After talking with UW head coach Bo Ryan this spring, he was sold on the Badgers.

"The first time I talked to coach Ryan I was almost ready to commit on the spot to the walk-on position he offered," he said. "He wasn't like any past coaches who promised me anything.

"He said, 'I'm going to promise you an opportunity - that's the only thing I can promise you.'"

That's all he wanted to hear. As a result, Zach Bohannon is now looking forward to developing his game and individual skills during his redshirt season.

"I feel like the swing offense is perfect for me," he said, "just because of the versatility that it gives to each player within the system. We ran it in high school my sophomore and junior years."

Already, though, he's had his eyes open to the challenge that awaits him.

"I kind of had an understanding of the final product here when they pulled back the curtain," he said. "But I never really knew what was behind that curtain and all the hard work that they put in until I finally saw it this summer.

"Without a doubt, I think the two years at Air Force is going to help me with my transition (to Wisconsin). But I know I have a long ways to go here. The Mountain West was a heckuva conference the last few years; fourth in the RPI.

"But it's still nowhere close to the day-in and day-out grind of the Big Ten. When you get a feel for the work ethic necessary during the offseason, you can only imagine how hard it is going to be once you get into the season."

Jason Bohannon, who played last season in Germany, shared a little bit of his wisdom.

"Do everything the way you're told to do it," J-Bo told Z-Bo.

Jason Bohannon also said, "You have the solid foundation already from the Air Force Academy, so it's just a matter of time before you get set into the Wisconsin 'ways' and how we do everything."

Consider them survival tips.

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