In the Wisconsin men's basketball record book, the bio information on junior center Evan Anderson begins with the following words: "Humble and hard-working Wisconsin product."
That is an excellent description of the 6-foot-10, 245-pounder from Stanley. Perhaps it helps explain why Anderson's teammates get so excited when the big man checks into the lineup and makes a few things happen.
The former standout from Eau Claire North has played in about half of the Badgers' games this season, averaging a bit more than three minutes per outing. Last Saturday at Purdue, Anderson logged seven minutes. Seven very important minutes, in the Badgers' 14-point victory. His teammates loved it.
"He got mobbed more than anybody after the game," said UW associate head coach Greg Gard. "They understand not only that seven minutes he contributed, but how he has had to work to get to that point."
"It was great to be able to go out there and help my teammates," added Anderson. "It was really important to me."
"I was able to box out (A.J.) Hammons. I believe that was his third foul (it was). That was a key to have him on the bench the rest of the first half."
I think the players and coaches appreciate Anderson so much because they know this game is anything but easy. At times, he can be very tough on himself. So a few weeks ago, when Anderson got some run late in the game against Illinois and nailed a three-point shot against the Illini, players popped out of their chairs to cheer him on.
When he gets on the floor in the guts of a game and does a lot of the little things well, it means even more.
"I thought he did a great job of staying within himself," said Gard. "He just went in, set good screens, was physical. He did a great job of blocking out and getting the over-the-back call on the third foul (on Hammons).
"He has bought into the program. He has never complained. He keeps working."
While nobody wants to get too carried away about one game, perhaps last Saturday's effort at Mackey Arena can serve as a confidence boost for Anderson. This is his fourth year in the program, and he believes experience can help him help the program.
"Being here and doing every little thing that we do," he said. "We spend a lot of time behind the scenes that people don't see. Lifting, running, all that in the summer. The experience is just great ... and we put in a lot of work."
And when that work is rewarded, it tends to make a good competitor want to keep grinding away. Nobody has questioned Anderson's competitive nature. Enough players have run into one of his haymaker screens in practice to know he can be a tough man to move. Rest assured Anderson's teammates were more than happy to see an opponent get a taste of what the Badgers deal with every day in practice.
Like most teams in the country, the Badgers would love to see continued growth off the bench. Freshmen Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig are doing a very solid job. Recently fellow freshman Vitto Brown started to get some work with the regular rotation. Duje Dukan has shown he is capable of providing a boost as well.
Yet there is always room for more competition. While nobody is making any bold predictions, it was fun to see Evan Anderson get in the mix. As the always difficult Big Ten season rolls on, there is no doubt coach Bo Ryan will happily accept some more depth. You just never know when it will be needed.