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Men's hoops starts its 2010-11 climb

IMG_9785_sm.jpgThe 2010-11 school year has begun on the campus of UW-Madison, and with it, some action within the Badger basketball program. With workouts, The Hill and vacancies on the staff, it's been an eventful start.

Tuesday marked the first day of individual workouts for the players. NCAA rules allow for the student athletes to work with coaches on fundamentals in small groups. When I stopped by the Nicholas-Johnson Pavilion to see how things were going, senior Jon Leuer, sophomore Mike Bruesewitz and freshmen Duje Dukan and Josh Gasser were working on taking one dribble into a 10-foot jumper while assistant coach Gary Close whacked them across the arm and chest with a large foam club.

From what I saw, Leuer looked smooth (as always) and brushed off the "contact" from Close like a fly at a BBQ... shoo. Bruesewitz was still sporting the giant, red curly hair-do and the two freshmen were just trying not to screw up. Ah, the first day of school.

IMG_9780_sm.jpgAnother first this week was the inaugural running of The Hill for 2010 on Thursday. All 17 players ran eight repetitions up and down the Elver Park hill setting an impressive pace for this early in the season. The four freshmen (including 6-10 Evan Anderson and his size 20-something feet) seemed unfazed by the steep workout.

First day at The Hill photo gallery

I asked one of the newcomers, Ben Brust, how it went and he said, "Not too bad, but I came out over the summer and ran six reps just to test it out." Savvy freshmen this year, apparently.

Finally, Bo Ryan and his staff have been busy trying to replace a few valuable figures on the Badger bench. Assistant coach Howard Moore has moved on to be the head coach at Illinois-Chicago and Ryan could be close to hiring his replacement.

Wisconsin video coordinator Matt Ryan followed Moore to UIC to serve as the Director of Basketball Operations. Lastly, the Badgers' Director of Basketball Operations, Joe Robinson, moved on to explore different opportunities within the sporting world.

That's three integral pieces of a bench staff that consists of only six members to begin with. The potential influence of new blood is exciting, but the three newcomers will have big shoes to fill. Evan Anderson-sized shoes.

ESPN announces Big Ten schedule, UW could appear seven times

091202MBB-0215-Ryan.jpgESPN and the Big Ten Conference announced their 2010-11 men's college basketball schedule for coverage on ESPN and ESPN2.

This season, ESPN3.com will simulcast every ESPN and ESPN2 telecast. Conference action will tip off Tuesday, Dec. 28 with Minnesota at Wisconsin at 6 p.m. (CT) on ESPN2.

On average, ESPN and ESPN2 will combine to televise three Big Ten games a week, highlighted by a telecast every Tuesday as part of the popular weekly Super Tuesday Presented by KFC doubleheader that includes games from the Big Ten and SEC. Super Tuesday begins Jan. 11 with Wisconsin at Michigan State.

ESPN or ESPN2 will also televise a Big Ten game every Thursday, beginning Jan. 6 with Northwestern at Illinois, and at least one game every weekend from Jan. 22 to March 5.

Overall, the networks will combine to televise 29 conference games, with Wisconsin appearing in as many as seven of those. The ESPN networks will also carry an extensive schedule of non-conference action.

In March, ESPN and ESPN2 will combine to televise four games of the Big Ten Conference Championship.

Wisconsin's appearances on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN3.com (All times Central, Schedule subject to change)
Dec. 28  -  6 p.m.  -  Minnesota at Wisconsin  -  ESPN2
Jan. 11  -  6 p.m.  -  Wisconsin at Michigan State  -  ESPN
Jan. 20  -  8 p.m.  -  Indiana at Wisconsin  -  ESPN or ESPN2
Feb. 1   -  6 p.m.   -  Purdue at Wisconsin  -  ESPN
Feb. 12  -  1 p.m.  -  Ohio State at Wisconsin  -  ESPN or ESPN2
March 3  -  8 p.m.  -  Wildcard Selection (Minn. at NW or Wisc. at Ind.)  -  ESPN or ESPN2
March 5  -  3 p.m.  -  Wildcard Selection (Wisc. at OSU, Ind. at Ill. or Pur at Iowa)  -  ESPN

Complete ESPN Big Ten schedule

Leuer praise keeps rolling in

Leuer_01.JPGA few days ago we talked about a CBSSports.com article that had USA Select Team coach Jay Wright praising Wisconsin senior Jon Leuer, this time it's ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla doing the gushing.

In a column posted Friday on ESPN.com, Fraschilla said Leuer will be on his short list of Big Ten Player of the Year candidates. You have to be an ESPN Insider to read the column, so below is what he had to say about Leuer:

These were a few of the college players who impressed me at the camp. It doesn't mean that I necessarily think these guys are all surefire NBA players, but I think they strengthened their standing with NBA scouts.

Jon Leuer, Wisconsin, 6-foot-10
Wright raved about Leuer during practice sessions and he was right on the money. Leuer has an excellent shooting touch to 20 feet and is your classic "stretch power forward" who will be murder in pick-and-pop situations. While not a bruising player, he held his own around the basket. And his length allowed him to elevate to create space for his deft stroke when he was in the paint. While Michigan State and Purdue have a number of Big Ten Player of the Year candidates on their rosters this coming season, Leuer will definitely be included on my list.

Leuer impresses in Vegas

When Wisconsin senior Jon Leuer went to Las Vegas to train with the USA Basketball Select Team last week, he was certainly a household name in Madison and the Big Ten. After a week of impressive workouts and scrimmages against the USA National Team, Leuer is quickly becoming a household name NATIONALLY.

Don't believe me? Just ask Villanova head coach Jay Wright and CBS Sports' senior writer Gary Parrish. In Parrish's Five for Friday column he offered the following:

2. Who's the best college player with USA Basketball?

All five of the guys -- LaceDarius Dunn, Jacob Pullen, Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Marcus Morris -- I listed last week as frontrunners for preseason First Team All-America honors are here, so take your pick. But the question that intrigues me isn't the one about who's the best as much as it's the one about who's proved to be better than the people running these workouts anticipated.

I asked Villanova's Jay Wright that exact question.

His answer was Wisconin's Jon Leuer.

"He's really good," Wright said. "Maybe I haven't followed him as well because he's from the Midwest, and maybe he wouldn't surprise anybody else. But he's got great size, he puts it on the floor, he passes it, he can shoot it. He's just a ballplayer."

An NBA ballplayer?

"Yes," Wright answered.

Moments later, I told Leuer that Wright was raving about him.

"Really?" Leuer said. "That's a good guy to get a compliment from."

Ryan part of John Wooden tribute

Of the many tributes to the late John Wooden, CollegeChalkTalk.com may have come up with the best and most fitting. The legendary UCLA coach passed away on June 4 and the site recruited some of the game's top coaches and former UCLA players to write about one of the blocks on Wooden's famed Pyramid of Success.

Wooden's Pyramid of Success contains 15 philosophical building blocks for winning at basketball and at life. CollegeChalkTalk.com enlisted coaches like Bo Ryan, Steve Lavin (St. John's), Phil Martelli (Saint Joseph's), Tubby Smith (Minnesota), Rick Barnes (Texas), Tom Izzo (Michigan State) and Ben Howland (UCLA), along with players like Bobby Hurley and Kevin Love to discuss one of the pyramid topics.

Wisconsin's Ryan addressed the building block titled "Team Spirit" and offered the following commentary:

One of the many things I admired about Coach Wooden's teams was that everyone on the team, one through 15, seemed to be involved, yet understood his individual role.  His teams were the ultimate esprit de corps and I have tried to emulate that spirit with my teams.

As Coach Wooden once said, "Team spirit means you are willing to sacrifice personal considerations for the welfare of all."

True team spirit exists when guys on the bench live through the guys on the floor, knowing that they've been a part of getting to this moment.  Everyone involved in the program knows that the actions on the floor and the success of a team are a direct result of group preparation and involvement.  The value of the experience comes from the efforts.

At Wisconsin we always talk about everything being geared toward team goals and a team championship.

Our energy is always focused on what is coming next.  Coming together as a cohesive group and fortifying strengths. Success is shared by all and blame is spread across everyone's shoulders.

NBA Summer League Recap - July 19

• NBA Summer League Main Page   |   Standings  |   Statistics

The 2010 NBA Summer League is in the books with the final games wrapping up on Sunday. The five Badgers playing in the league may not have posted gaudy numbers, but all were consistent contributors on some of the league's top teams.

Here is a breakdown of each of the former UW stars now donning the NBA logo:

Marcus Landry - Indiana Pacers/New York Knicks
Landry had a productive summer, playing for both the Pacers and Knicks during Summer League action. With Indiana (3-2) in the Orlando League, Landry saw duty in four contests, averaging 14.5 minutes per game. Highlighted by a nine-point, five-rebound game vs. Boston (July 9), Landry averaged 7.3 points, 3.0 boards, 1.5 assists and 0.8 steals.

Playing for the Knicks (3-2) in the Las Vegas League, Landry again appeared in four games, upping his numbers to 8.3 points per game in 12.8 minutes. A key figure in New York's 3-2 record, Landry also averaged 2.0 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.5 blocks per game.

Trevon Hughes - Houston Rockets
Back-up point guard Trevon Hughes showed the Rockets (3-2) that when given the opportunity, he still knows how to score. Hughes appeared in four games, but saw more than 10 minutes of playing time just once, filling up the box score with 10 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals in 17 minutes of Houston's 100-91 loss to Toronto. Overall, Hughes averaged 2.5 points, 1.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steal per game.

Greg Stiemsma - Minnesota Timberwolves
Former Badger big man Greg Stiemsma appeared in all five contests, playing 13.8 minutes per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves (1-4). He may have averaged only 0.6 points per game, but he flashed his rebounding and defensive prowess Wisconsin fans have come to love. The Class of 2008 Badger averaged 2.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.

Joe Krabbenhoft - Portland Trailblazers
Krabbenhoft averaged 9.0 minutes per game for the 4-1 Blazers. The 2009 Wisconsin graduate grabbed six rebounds in 20 minutes of action in Portland's league-finale win over Chicago on Sunday. For the week, Krabbenhoft appeared in all five of the Blazers' games and finished with per game averages of 1.6 points, 2.4 rebounds, 0.4 assists and 0.6 steals.

Brian Butch - Denver Nuggets
Butch's season was cut short by a knee injury, but his Nuggets went on to finish the league with a 4-1 mark. Butch started the first two games - both Denver wins - averaging 7.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 0.5 steals per game.

Butch underwent successful surgery on Tuesday, July 13 and has begun his rehabilitation in Denver.

The next step for these former Badgers will be to hope for an invitation to an NBA training camp, which begin in late September.

Drop the Puck!!

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The team is four years in the making. You could argue six years in the making with the initial recruitment of Wisconsin's fifth-year senior Ben Street back before the 2005-06 season. Either way, it has been a long road for Wisconsin's trip to the 2010 NCAA Men's Frozen Four.

It is officially the school's 11th trip to the Frozen Four and the Badgers historically are one of the best teams once they get there. Wisconsin is 15-5-0 all-time at the Frozen Four, trailing only Lake Superior State, as college hockey's most successful championship-week participant. That translates to six out of the 10 previous Frozen Four trips during which Wisconsin was the team hoisting the NCAA championship trophy upon the conclusion.

Seven seniors and nine juniors make up the team's core. Tri-captains Blake Geoffrion, Ben Street and Ryan McDonagh, its heart. But it is a team that is at its best when its depth carries the day.

You invariably hear the players talking about how it all started last summer. After Wisconsin missed the 2008-09 tournament by 0.002 points in the Ratings Percentage Index, there were t-shirts made up as a reminder to work that much harder. The margin of error in a six-month season is just that small. One extra squat, a little extra effort running up Bascom Hill could make that difference.

Now Wisconsin (27-10-4) takes on RIT (28-11-1), a school with its own rallying cry. Each team has one, or so it seems. They're representing the "small" schools that are hoping for a little more recognition and are on a magical run. Miami was up two goals with a minute to play in the 2009 NCAA title game, only to see it slip away in overtime. Boston College has been a Frozen Four staple over the last decade.

It's funny, but during the 2006 season, Wisconsin adopted the phrase "relentless" as one of its key principles. They were relentless at all times, never taking an easy shift or easy practice. That year, the team wore red "Livestrong"-like bands with the word "RELENTLESS" carved onto the side. I'm naturally fidgety with my hands and I've been finding myself flipping around one of those bands in the office while I've worked over the past two weeks. I don't even remember where I grabbed it from the first time, but it has been in my hands an awful lot recently.

These Badgers are ready for the opportunity. Will they seize it?

As you can expect, Blake Geoffrion has been a popular media request leading up to this week's games. He has made it well known that he is ready to be done practicing and he is itching to just play the games. Monday's practice seemed particularly physical as the team looked ready to play that very day. Will they keep that edge?

The media requirements for the coaches and student-athletes are vast and more for some than others. Wednesday at Ford Field will involve a four-hour stay at the rink for some of the Badgers to take care of ESPN, Westwood One Radio, Scoreboard and the rest of the Frozen Four media. The coverage is great for a sport that always thirsts for more, but the extraordinary interview schedule will test all four teams.