Lucas at Large: Freshman Uthoff reminds Ryan of Gasser

Bo Ryan is not prone to hyperbole when discussing freshmen. So his words tend to carry more weight when the UW basketball coach does single out a first-year player as a potential contributor.

That was the case during last season's media day when Ryan volunteered a thumbnail sketch on the strengths of guard Josh Gasser, which clearly indicated that he had a chance to play right away.

Uthoff_practice_2.jpg"His knowledge of the game and court sense are really good; he's ahead of a lot of freshmen," he said at the time. "Josh can play. Josh is smart. Nothing seems to rattle him. That's what I like about him."

As it turned out, there was plenty to like about Gasser who scored 21 points in the season opener, started 30 of 34 games and produced the first triple-double in school history.

During Monday's media day, Ryan was asked about freshman Jarrod Uthoff, a 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward from Cedar Rapids, who was named Mr. Basketball in the state of Iowa.

"He'll play at the University of Wisconsin and he'll play early," Ryan said. "He's a player; better than expected. But don't tell him I said that. I think the other guys (freshmen) have a chance to play.

"I'm just saying that he's right now, kind of picking up things like Josh (Gasser) did last year. Coaches like good listeners and fast learners and I've never seen a more conscientious guy."

Earlier in the press conference, Ryan fielded a question on his expectations for UW's freshman class - Uthoff, George Marshall, Traevon Jackson, Frank Kaminsky and Jordan Smith - based on what he had seen already.
    
"Well, if you asked me last Tuesday, I could have given you an answer," Ryan said. "If you asked me yesterday, I could have given you an answer.

"You know what? After eight practices I could have given you eight different answers which is not unusual. But here's what I do like.

"They don't like to lose in the drills. If you come in second, you come in last. There are three teams of four or five guys and you go against each other; red, white and black jerseys.

"There are two teams that have to run, because only one team wins. It's pretty competitive. That's a good sign. If we don't have guys who are competing we're not going to get better."

The faces may change from class to class; the message never does to his freshmen.

"For the 40th time, since this is my 40th year of coaching," Ryan said. "You tell them on the first day that if you don't go hard against me, you are disrespectful to me.

"If I don't go hard at you every possession then I'm being disrespectful of you. We just tell guys, 'If you really want to accomplish something each and every day, try to beat the guy across you.

"Try to make sure you're making him work as hard as he can to get to the rim and to get a good shot and make him move his feet to stop you when you're on offense.'

"If you have those kinds of (competitive) drills, guys will develop."

The mere mention of player development struck a chord with Ryan, who was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame last weekend along with former Princeton coach Pete Carrill.
    
"I got goose bumps when Petey told me Saturday night that he doesn't watch a lot of teams on television but he watches us play," related Ryan.

"I said, 'Why, because we're slow?' He goes, 'No, because you move the ball and you play the way the game is supposed to be played.'

"I thought that was pretty nice. Here's a guy who's 81 years old and still working in the NBA and he actually had something nice say about our guys."

Ryan has always had the utmost respect for Carrill because "he was such a good teacher getting guys to understand their roles and how to play off each other."

Who does that sound like? Exactly.

After that brief detour, Ryan got back on point and concluded, "If these freshmen are competing, we have a chance to get better."
ON WISCONSIN