UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Badgers taking 'charge' during tournament run

Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor and Syracuse's Scoop Jardine crossed paths over the summer at both the Chris Paul and Deron Williams basketball camps.  At the latter - an elite guard camp in Chicago - Taylor and Jardine were roommates.

"He's a cool dude, we talked, we kicked it," Taylor said.

But did they talk in June about the possibility of crossing paths again in March at the NCAA tournament? "We really didn't talk about playing each other," Taylor said. "We talked about both of our teams, and I knew they were going to have a good team."

Taylor also knew the Badgers had a chance to be a good; maybe Sweet 16 good. Maybe they could get back to the level they reached last season - though neither Taylor, nor Jardine could have likely envisioned that they would be standing in each other's path or way.

Now that would have been a scoop, if they had. But that's the Sweet 16 matchup that has materialized in the East Regional at the TD Garden in Boston. Thursday night, it will be Wisconsin vs. Syracuse - and to a lesser degree - Taylor vs. Jardine.

"He's a lot like Jordan," UW coach Gary Close said of Jardine. "There are some similarities. He's not the scorer that Jordan is. But he's a great leader. He's tough, he's physical, and he makes good things happen around him.

"As a fifth-year senior, Jardine has been through the wars and won a lot of games. He's not afraid to take a tough shot - he's not afraid of anything, whether it's taking it (the ball) at somebody or guarding anybody. He's a tough kid."

Fearless might be a word to best describe Jardine. "I haven't watched Syracuse a ton this year," Taylor said. "But I know that he's extremely driven as a person. He's very goal-oriented and fearless is probably a good way to describe him.

"There isn't anything he doesn't think that he can do. I feel that's an East Coast thing (Jardine is from Philadelphia). You get that from a lot of those guys out there. I remember that in Sebastian Telfair and Carl Krauser. It's a cultural thing for their regions."

Maybe that best explains Bo Ryan's competitiveness. Wisconsin's 64-year-old head coach was raised just outside of Philly in Chester. And you will generally find his teams and best players, like Taylor, to be fearless, particularly when it comes to taking charges.

"Charges weren't as prevalent when I played," Ryan said of the early to mid-'60s. "What you would do is frustrate an offensive player and they would push off or run into you. I drew a lot of fouls that way because for some reason I got under people's skin.

"Can you imagine that?"     

Two "deads" and a charge.

What's the first thing that comes to mind?

"No fun," said Mike Bruesewitz. "Pain."

"Hard work," said Ryan Evans. "It means we're going to be working hard."

"It's just something we do," Bruesewitz added.

It's just something that Bo Ryan-coached teams do.

"This is my 19th year with Bo," said associate head coach Greg Gard, who also assisted Ryan at Milwaukee and UW-Platteville. "And we've done it every first day of practice."

Two "deads" and a charge.

It's more than just a zigzag basketball drill; it's a commitment.

"It's about our defensive principles," Bruesewitz said. "We try to pressure the ball a little bit, make sure we stay in front of our guy and try to take charges."

Where would the Badgers be without drawing those charges against Vanderbilt?

"Those charges won the game for us," Ryan said.

Not everyone sees it the same way, particularly when Wisconsin is involved.

"The talking heads talked about too many charges being taken," Ryan said with an incredulous look. "They want the offensive player to have more freedom of movement.

"Imagine that?"

There's definitely a method to the madness. "We're trying to get into people," Ryan said. "We're trying to get people to think twice or get them out of their comfort zone."

Wisconsin produced those results against Vandy and their top gun, John Jenkins, who was held to just 13 points on 3-of-13 shooting, 2-of-9 from beyond the 3-point arc. Jenkins had been averaging 20 points and nearly four triples per game.

But he picked up a couple of fouls by attacking on offense in the first half and that appeared to take away some of his aggressiveness. Two of his teammates, Jeffery Taylor and Brad Tinsley, were also guilty of two fouls each as the Badgers took multiple charges.

"That was huge," Gard said. "It set the tone early that they were not going to be able to get to the rim. Sometimes it makes an offensive player gun-shy. They don't come as hard, they know if they go in there again, they may pick up their second or third foul."

Two "deads" and a charge.

"They'll get that drill the first day of practice on October 15," Gard promised. "We use one third of the court, the full length of the floor. It's one on one, offense versus defense. We put coaches at the one-third and two-thirds mark."

Two "deads" is short for two dead ball situations. "It's basically a zigzag drill," Gard said. "The offensive player has to make a pass to the coach and the defensive player jumps to the ball and we throw it back to the offensive player."

The drill forces the defender to slide his feet and take a charge. "We talk to them about the way to take it," Gard said, "by tucking your chin and not landing on your wrist. We teach the fundamentals of taking a charge so no one gets hurt."

The Badgers will use the drill periodically during the season as a reminder of the sacrifices that have to be made to be successful. "The best way to discourage guys from getting to the rim is by taking charges," Bruesewitz said. "It's a staple of what we do here."

There will be times when the players will take charges on mats in the weight room. "The biggest thing is the fear of the fall," Gard said. "You have to get through that. You have to have the gumption to step in there and take the hit knowing it's going to hurt."

But it's only going to hurt for awhile, he insisted.

"Once they get over that," Gard said, "they understand that it's required of them. A lot of high school players are expected to be on the floor for 32 minutes so they play a lot of matador defense, ole, and get out of the way rather than risking getting into foul trouble.

"If they want to play here, they figured out that they'd better take care of the defensive end of the floor and they'd better show that they have the courage to step in and take a charge. If they show they're shy at all, it sticks out pretty quickly.

"And we're quick to point that out."

Nobody takes a charge better than Bruesewitz. "It's pretty natural for Mike," Gard said. "You have to have a little Thespian in you, too. You have to be able to sell it at times. But you can't begin to fall before contact. The officials are good at picking that up."

Evans took two charges in the Vanderbilt win. "Charge taking was not in his vocabulary when he walked on campus here," Gard said. Evans didn't disagree. "We did a couple of charge drills in high school," he said. "But not as many as here."

Evans learned quickly that "it's definitely a way to get on the floor."

You can take that literally, too.

"We talk all the time that 90 percent of the game is playing on the floor," Gard said. "Everybody gets caught up in oohs and aahs of the lobs and dunks. That's 10 percent. Positioning, footwork, blocking out, rebound - a lot of that is done on the floor.

"How can you level the playing field? We do it different ways. Taking care of the ball is one way. Not giving up high percentage shots and taking charges are other ways. Maybe we're not as athletic in spots but we can even that out by not letting people jump over us."

He'd much rather they'd "run over us" as long as they wind up with the charge.

Imagine that?