UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Badgers in waiting prep themselves for next season

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Bohannon_Zach_RW_2011-12 (3)_BLOG.jpgWisconsin freshman Jarrod Uthoff got a sneak preview Thursday night of the type of reception that he will likely receive in the near future at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

The noisy crowd (14,248) - which was bolstered by a special promotion (free admission to students) - serenaded UW guard Ben Brust with boos every time he touched the basketball.

Brust had originally signed a national letter of intent to attend Iowa. But the Big Ten granted him a release after the Hawkeyes fired Todd Lickliter - the coach to whom Brust had committed.

The circumstances are different for Uthoff, the reigning Mr. Basketball in Iowa. As a senior, Uthoff led the state in scoring as he averaged 26 points and 11 rebounds for Cedar Rapids Jefferson.

Uthoff had a sizeable contingent of family and friends at Thursday's game even though he never got off the bench for the Badgers. The 18-year-old Uthoff is redshirting this season.

"We think he's got a bright future and this has been a good year for Jarrod to improve and bang in practice against the guys that are ahead of him," said UW assistant coach Gary Close.

"He's added strength, which was a big reason why he redshirted in the first place."

The 6-foot-8 Uthoff has added 18 pounds and increased his weight to 210.

"We're putting money in the bank," said UW associate head coach Greg Gard, "and if you can leave it in there a little longer you're going to get a higher interest rate for that fifth year."

"Redshirting is never a mistake; it's very rare when you don't have a better fifth year than your first year," added Close. "Jarrod's game is coming around; you can see it every day in practice."

Working on the scout team against the starters, Uthoff has shown some offensive skills.

"He's pretty athletic and long," Close said. "He can shoot the 3 and score around the basket. If he can add some strength and different parts to his game, he has a chance to be a good player."

As redshirts, Uthoff and freshman point guard George Marshall have been able to go to school on what it takes to deliver a consistent performance level every day in practice.

"Along with the strength issues, that's the one thing freshmen have to comprehend and figure out," Gard said. "That's playing hard on every possession - every possession every day matters."

Among the Cedar Rapids metro high school programs, Uthoff is the first senior to be honored as Mr. Basketball in Iowa since 2006 when Linn-Mar's Jason Bohannon was so recognized.

Bohannon scored over 1,000 career points and played in the second most games (135) in school history during his four years at Wisconsin. Bohannon, like Brust, was booed at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

That same fate likely awaits Bohannon's younger brother, Zach Bohannon, who's sitting out the mandatory redshirt year after transferring from the Air Force Academy.

The 6-6, 210-pound Bohannon has two years of eligibility remaining.

"He's a smart and experienced player," Close said of ZBo. "Here's a guy who has played a lot of basketball at a high Division-1 level (Bohannon appeared in 39 games during his two years at Air Force).

"He can knock down shots - as all the Bohannon's can. He'll bang a little bit. He can pick-and-pop. He's a good passer and pretty versatile around the basket with his right or left hand."

Bohannon joined the UW program late last summer.

"One thing that will benefit him," Gard said, "is that he will have the spring and eight weeks in June and July to develop from a physical standpoint and reconfigure his body a little bit more."

That window, Gard pointed out, will also be valuable to incoming freshman Sam Dekker.

"He's physically starting to fill out and he already understands the importance of the weight room," Gard said. "He's not naïve or blinded by anything. He understands that he has to get stronger."

Last Tuesday night, Dekker scored 58 points in Sheboygan Lutheran's 80-73 win over Random Lake. He was 14-of-14 inside the arc, 5-of-10 on 3-pointers and 15-of-17 from the free throw line.

Dekker also had eight rebounds, five blocked shots and zero turnovers.

"A lot of guys can't get 58 points in a lay-up line much less in a basketball game," Close observed. "That's impressive and I don't care who you're playing against."

After watching Dekker play earlier this season, Close said, "He's a very versatile player in terms of being able to score in a lot of different ways. He's athletic, he plays hard and he's been well-coached.

"The fans here are going to love him."

Gard agreed about the dimension that Dekker can bring to the offense.

"He's a variety scorer," Gard said. "He can post. He'll rebound and go rim-to-rim with the ball. He's got great vision and he sees the whole floor. Plus, he's very unselfish."

What about transitioning from Sheboygan Lutheran's suspect competitive level to the Big Ten? Gard cited the experience Dekker has gained from playing against the best of the best in AAU basketball.

"He can more than hold his own," Gard said.

That's very true despite Dekker falling short of being named a McDonald's All-American.

"Maybe that's a benefit," Close said. "It's probably not fair because he certainly deserved it. But it's a chip that he can put on his shoulder as far as, 'Hey, I'm going to prove those people wrong.'

"Sam is that type of kid; he's very competitive. I think maybe in the long run it will help."

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I've been wondering about Duje Dukan and Evan Anderson -

neither has gotten any playing time, and with the Badgers seemingly loaded at F/C (especially forward) next year, can we expect that these guys and maybe even Uthoff will continue to struggle for court time?

It would be great to see you do an article on these kids, where the coaches see each kids development, how they may (or may not) fit together with the other pieces of the Badger team next year ...

Just an idea - I'll bet other wisco fans would enjoy a piece like this, too ...